3 Mistakes That Ended My First Bike Tour Early

Today’s guest post is from fellow blogger Matt Gibson. Although he make a few bike touring mistakes and had to abandon his bike tour, I give him all kinds of kudos for getting out there!

In June of 2011 I decided to do my first long-distance bicycle tour. Although I had little experience with multi-day trips, I had competed in a few Olympic-distance triathlons and ridden as far as 80km in a day, so I thought that I was pretty well prepared.

And I was pretty well prepared — but not well enough.


Matt started his tour in Vancouver.

My plan was to cycle from Vancouver (in southwestern BC) to my hometown of Cranbrook (in southeastern BC), a trip of about 1000 km across mountainous southern British Columbia.

I didn’t make it. By the time that I arrived in Kelowna, the halfway point, my knees were so sore and swollen that I had to stop. This had nothing to do with me having weak knees or poor physical fitness and had everything to do with my lack of planning and cycling experience.  I made three mistakes that caused my first bike tour to come to an early end.

1. I Didn’t Know My Equipment

This admittedly wasn’t really my fault, but it’s definitely worth mentioning.

I had taken the bus to Vancouver and spent a few days with my cousin. Two days before I was set to leave my bicycle lock was cut and my bike was stolen. I had two days to replace my bike. My budget was $100. So, Craigslist shopping I went.

I found a decent bike — a Norco hybrid. It was a bit heavy, but was comfortable and had relatively thin tires, so I thought it would be appropriate for the journey. It wasn’t until later, on the road, that I found out it wasn’t.

My bike was designed for sitting upright while riding, rather than hunched over. This meant that my legs were moving in a drastically different range of motion than on my previous bike. They were unaccustomed to it. Under normal circumstances, this is a small inconvenience. On a big trip when you’re pedaling thousands of strokes each day, it can take a toll on your joints.

2. I Didn’t Know My Route

I had driven from Vancouver to Cranbrook numerous times in the past, so I thought I knew the route I would cycle fairly well. I was wrong.

A cyclist needs to consider a lot factors that a driver does not. Cyclists will prefer to take smaller, secondary highways than eight-lane freeways. They also need to consider the hills involved. That’s where I got myself into trouble.

I’d hoped to make it from Vancouver to Hope on the first day. I would then take the Coquihalla Highway north towards Merritt. I didn’t make it to Hope, though, and camped about 20 km out of town and hoped I’d be able to make up the distance the following day.

When I rolled into Hope in the morning I went to the tourism office. It was lucky that I did. The man behind the counter strongly advised against riding the Coquihalla as it’s very busy and the shoulder is very narrow. He told me that I should instead take the smaller Highway 3 to the south.

Riding the Coquihalla involves a very long climb. Highway 3, as I learned, actually crosses one of the highest passes in Western Canada. The grade is so steep that truckers frequently have to pull over to allow their engines to cool.

That is not something one should be doing on the second day of their first long-distance cycling tour. So, I headed out of town and went a bit up the pass before setting up camp, planning to tackle it in the morning.

3. I Didn’t Listen to My Body

Climbing Allison Pass on my creaky Norco while pulling a trailer is probably the hardest physical exertion I’ve performed in my life. It felt comparable to running a marathon (which did once).


It was a long, slow grind to the top of Allison Pass.

The air was cold, but I was sweating. After several hours of riding in the cold air my chest began to hurt. I don’t know why, but it was so bad that I had to stop several times. After that I covered up, slowed down, and took regular breaks. I was relieved when I finally passed the summit and made it to a hostel.

I had pushed my body harder than was wise — especially so early in the trip. The following day, however, I pressed on, covering about 80 km. The day after that, I was about 130 km from my aunt’s house in Oliver. I decided to put in a long day, push through, and rest at my aunt’s.

Big mistake.

I made it to my aunt’s house OK. But, in the following days my legs were stiff and my knees were sore. I rested for three days and then hit the road again. Within a few hours my knees were so swollen and sore that I could barely push down the pedal.

I was finished.

Don’t Do What I Did

With some very basic planning and a bit of common sense, this disaster could have been avoided and I could have finished my trip. Before you hop on a bike for a long-distance trip, my advice to you is:

1. Make sure you’re accustomed to and comfortable with your equipment.

2. Plan your route in advance and, for the love of God, check for thousands-of-meters-high mountain passes.

3. If you feel any pain at all, rest. Don’t try to make up lost time. Keep a pace you know you can maintain.

This guest post is by freelance adventure travel writer, photographer, and blogger Matt Gibson. For more Matt Gibson adventure travel goodness, check out his adventure travel blogFacebook page, and Twitter account. If nothing else, you should definitely download his free e-book Five Adventure Photoessays.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

If you think you can, you can. And if you think you can’t, you’re right.

In order to succeed, we must first believe that we can. – Michael Korda

You all know how I feel about THE BOX. The box society puts us in and that we grow up believing we need to live in. The box that places certain constraints and expectations upon our lives.

It’s up to us to decide if we want to live inside or outside the box.

alisaAlisa, who blogs at Living Outside of the Box, totally agrees with me. She and her family are currently in Mexico living an unconventional life and have learned a thing or two about living for today and making conscious choices. I’ll let her tell you all about it…

How many times in your life have you been at a crossroads, where you must choose either an easy path, or the one less traveled? Perhaps been presented with an opportunity that will take you out of your comfort zone, and you know it will bring you trials and discomforts in the journey. Do you continue the way you’ve always gone, or do you make the conscious choice to change, and do something new?

I believe one of the hardest challenges to overcome is to simply believe that we can. For a few people in the world, confidence comes naturally. For the rest of us, we have to be our own personal cheerleaders; constantly encouraging ourselves that our skeptics are wrong, and that we can, indeed, succeed.

Do you want to change your career path? Do you want to start a new business?  Do you want a life of part-time or full-time travel? What is it that makes your heart beat, and why aren’t you doing it? Is it because you believe that it is too hard to change? Or do you believe it will make other people happier to stay in the rut?

It took me by surprise when I discovered what my passion was.  It was Spring 2002, and I was in college studying Music Dance Theater. My life had always been filled with music and theatre, I had always dreamed of performing on stages in big cities. I typically auditioned for summer stock theatre jobs, but this year I had made plans to return home to Kansas for the entire summer for the first time since leaving for college 2 ½ years earlier.

Plans quickly changed when I was offered a job to go up the tiny town of Skagway, Alaska and perform as a Cancan dancer in a theatrical production that depicted the history of Skagway’s role in the Klondike Gold Rush. It was unexpected, and seemed like a big jump into the unknown. I called my parents to tell them I had accepted the job, and I was somewhat surprised when they didn’t question me, and instead congratulated me on the job and said they were excited to have an excuse to go to Alaska that summer!

It was this magical summer that the seed for travel was planted. I met amazing people from all over the world, and I found peace in the solitude that the mountains and ocean had to offer. Thankfully, it was this summer that I also met my husband, who had wandered north from Washington State to spend his third summer driving large tour motor coaches throughout Alaska and Western Canada.

We got married the following spring, and returned to Alaska for the next two summers to work seasonal jobs. Alaska was our passion!  We worked long days, but we were blessed with the opportunity to climb a mountain at our whim’s delight, and we explored the nooks and crannies that Canada’s Yukon Territory had to offer.

When our third married summer came along, we had just welcomed our first child into our family. Not wanting to leave a baby with a sitter all day, we determined we needed to find a job that allowed us to take our baby to work. Therefore, a summer gift store business was born.

I admit we didn’t know a thing about business when we started. Sure, I had read several books about business accounting, so I felt confident I could at least keep sales and expense records. But no one told us where or how to find products for our store, how to price and display the products, or even how to write wholesale orders. It was new territory. But we believed we could make it happen, and we worked hard at it.

A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work. -Colin Powell

Success didn’t come overnight. There were many very lean years. We tried to live as cheaply as we could. We didn’t eat out, we didn’t shop for new clothes, we didn’t buy gifts for each other or others, and we didn’t buy expensive foods. It took several years before we even got into the swing of things and had a steadier income (oh wait, I mean, any income at all).

We spent countless nights (even all-nighters with the baby sleeping in the bassinet) working in the store, trying to learn the trade and make our lifestyle work. Another baby came into the mix, as well as a new retail space that was four times the size of the first one.  We rarely had days off work for six months straight, and our winters were spent glued to a computer studying sales reports and doing the accounting that we didn’t have time to do in the summers. Family and friends assumed that our winters were spent lazing around the house, watching TV, reading books, going on dates. But the truth was that during those years we didn’t have time for leisure activities like that, not to mention the money.

After five years of plugging along in this fashion, the economy took a downturn, and we finally took a realistic look at our sales numbers and expense numbers. Believe me, when the latter outweighs the first, it is not good. When all the expenses were taken into consideration, we learned we were still paying for this work experience.  Not to mention…what had happened to our love affair with Alaska?  By working such long and endless hours, we rarely escaped into the mountains or were able to venture into Canada for even weekend getaways. Where was the joy in being in a place of beauty, we could no longer enjoy it fully?

We immediately decided to close our store at the end of the summer. But what should we do next? We stepped back into the belief zone again, believing that it was the right step to take…but not knowing exactly where to go next. When you’ve spent five years trying to tell all of your nay-sayers to go away, it is tough to step back, dare to change your goals, and start out on a new path.  Sometimes believing in yourself is a conscious decision not to believe others.

We closed our retail store and switched our business to wholesale, which was the best thing we ever could have done. However, without the experience of having the store, there was absolutely no way we would have had the appropriate experience to move into the wholesale sphere. This choice came with a heavy price tag—a large business debt that we were convinced we would someday pay off in full. We became independent wholesale sales representatives for a product line we had carried in our store, and we even started our own jewelry import business.

We spent a year living with generous family members as we tried to get our new business going. Family members’ reactions were mixed. Some of them saw the amount of hours we put into our new business ventures and encouraged us. Others, however, claimed they didn’t think we were working, and told my husband to get a “real” job. Nevertheless, we kept going and doing what we knew was right for us.

If you have friends or family telling you that you can’t, or you shouldn’t, or that you’ll be sorry…believe me, you can. We’ve been there. But what it comes down to is YOU. Your belief. Your work ethic. Your perseverance.

We made it happen, and we aren’t some crazy anomaly. We know many others like us. We have a successful business, and we now live a life of travels and adventures that are unrestrained by the expectations of others. We are currently in Central Mexico, having the time of our lives exploring the vastly unique and diverse towns throughout all of this beautiful country.

So, what do you want to do? Where do you want to see yourself in five years? Or better yet, where do you see yourself one year from now? If you want to change your direction five years down the road, it comes down to the decisions and changes you are making right now—the decisions you are making this year. No one can rightfully tell you can or can’t do something, except for you.

If you think you can, you can. And if you think you can’t, you’re right. -Mary Kay Ash

Follow Alisa and her family at Living Outside of the Box

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Enjoy the here and now. It’s a conscious decision.

I first met Amy and Mike, who blog at Worldschool Adventures, back in June in Vancouver where we were all attending the TBEX conference for travel bloggers. I had just spent many years on the road and was thrilled to be in one place for a change; they were giddy with excitement about their upcoming adventures traveling the world with their children.

Over the next few months, I noticed the depression in Amy’s voice get more severe as she waited for their house to sell so they could hit the road. I felt badly and wished there was something – anything – I could do.

And then one day Amy sent me a message: Surprisingly, I’m OK with being here now.

That’s what it’s all about – to live in the moment and be OK with being here. Whereever here is. I’ll let Amy tell the story about how she reached that place.

My husband and I began formulating the plan while we were on our honeymoon in Southeast Asia.  We would come home, have children, wait until we felt they were old enough for travel, and then go back to Asia but this time with kids in tow.

WorldSchool familyFast-forward seven years and two children later and the plan that started as our moment of inspiration had morphed into our plan of action. At six and four we felt our boys were old enough to travel.  In the past six years we built three houses and sold two of them, building up our equity house by house.  Now in our third house, a beautiful rancher that I designed and my husband built, the timing was right for us to sell our house and go on a two year slow-travel adventure throughout Asia.

It was, we felt, the perfect plan.

We thought the house would sell fast.  We were sure that within a few months our lives in Canada would be neatly packed away and we would be living our dream of long-term family travel.  Apparently the universe had other plans.

amy and mikeI was incredibly optimistic in the first four months our house was for sale.  I looked at the sold sign on my vision board everyday and envisioned our lives in Asia.  The amazing food, the cheap cost of living, waking up to the sound of the ocean, being together as a family with all the time in the world to explore each new locale…. That was what I wanted more than anything.

The only thing standing in the way of our dreams was selling the house.  Once that hurdle was crossed we would be free.  But the house remained unsold and my optimism took a nosedive.

I started to get depressed with our situation.  Would we never leave?   I could not bear the thought of spending another winter here.  As the months ticked by I could feel my disdain for the house and our situation growing stronger and stronger.

Our house anchored us to a life we no longer wanted.  I believed that all it would take for me to be happy was for our house to sell.  In my mind, once we were traveling our lives would be perfect. I daydreamed about what the future held for us and hoped that soon we could “start” our lives.

But then, as winter began its slow and steady assault on the northern hemisphere, my perceptions began to change.  After a particularly hard day of parenting I wrapped myself in the therapy of a hot bath and decided I needed to accept the fact that our house had not sold.  Instead of wishing away our time here I needed to embrace it and enjoy it. I was spending all my time and energy dwelling on the future, anticipating the day our adventure would finally start.

I finally realized our adventure was happening right now!

Enjoying the woodsThe shift was slow at first and it started with the simple intention to be happy exactly where I was.  I created a mental list of all the things I had to be grateful for and the list was long!  I promised myself to find joy in the little things, and be grateful for what I had. 

I began purposefully and intentionally practicing living in the moment.

Instead of going for a walk and being absorbed in my thoughts of the future, I began going for walks with my eyes wide open.  I started seeing beauty in the little things, even in the browns and greys of an overcast winter.

Instead of seeing our house as an anchor I intentionally began looking at its beauty.  I gave thanks every day that we had a beautiful place to rest our heads and that our children were spending their first years close to our extended family.

Instead of biding our time and going through the motions of daily life we started making our own adventures at home.  We started taking advantage of our natural surroundings and getting out there to enjoy it.

These past few months have been hard in many ways and my husband and I have asked ourselves many searching questions.  What makes us happy?  What kind of life do we want to live?  What kind of childhood do we want our children to have?  How do we want to spend our time?  Having this “pause” in our plans has given us time to take stock and find our priorities.

playing with bigfootIt has now been ten months since our house came on the market and this time has been a roller coaster ride emotionally, but I would not trade the lessons learned for anything. I know there is a reason things did not turn out the way we had planned. The universe knew we needed a lesson in presence and patience.

It is my hope that if I can find presence here in our small town in British Columbia, then I can find it anywhere in the world.  We won’t be in China wishing we were in Thailand, we won’t be in the mountains longing for the beach.  We will be giving thanks for every single moment, drinking the beauty out of every sight we see and experience we live. We’ll invite presence with every breath.

Our house will sell when the time is right and until then we will live fully, enjoying this great adventure called life.

worldschool familyYou can follow Amy and crew at Worldschool Adventures

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

You get to decide how you’ll live today; take advantage of it

What would you do today if you knew tomorrow wouldn’t come?

Would you live your life differently? Talk more with loved ones? Go outside and feast on the wondrous sights around you? Live today to the fullest and enjoy each moment?

flowers of the rainforestOK, I know what you’re thinking. I would wouldn’t wash the dishes or take out the trash either. But I would pay attention to each and every moment and make sure I was taking advantage of each one.

How often do we get wrapped up in the future? We save money so that “someday” we can live the life of our dreams. We stay in jobs we hate so we will be comfortable later in life. We put off doing things we enjoy now thinking we’ll do them later.

Sound familiar?

I remember how beautiful it was as we cycled through Alaska. The Arctic tundra was magical with its vast flat grasslands extending out to meet the horizon. Enormous herds of reindeer and muskox peacefully grazed alongside the dirt road that snaked through the tundra. The sun slowly circled in the sky, never coming close to meeting the horizon. It was magical and, as I look back upon it now, I realize the Arctic tundra was one of my favorite parts of our entire journey from there to Argentina.

But I didn’t know that then.

arctic tundra and Brooks RangeAt the time, as I pedaled through the tundra, I was living for the future. I was convinced that, even though here and now was lovely, it would be better when we reached the Andes. South America would be better, more glorious, more incredible. Today was good, but tomorrow would be fantastic.

Months later we reached the Andes and yes, they were spectacular. They were enormous and beautiful and I loved my time there. I loved grinding up impossibly high passes and racing down the other side. I loved the unique indigenous tribes that populated the Andes. Our time passing through the Andes was wonderful.

But it wasn’t any more wonderful than cycling through the tundra.

cycling in Peru AndesI wish now that I would have known that Alaska would end up being one of my favorite parts of our entire journey from Alaska to Argentina. I wish I had focused on the here and now and truly rejoiced in each moment up there in the tundra. Instead, I enjoyed it while allowing part of my brain to dwell on future wonders.

How often do we do that in life? We enjoy today, but allow part of it slip by as we focus on the future. Our mindset is geared to let today pass us by in order to get to tomorrow.

Joan Baez once said, “You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you’re going to live today.”

Make the most of it.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Livin’ the dream won’t come easily

“I want to live my dream, but…”

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard this. Over and over again people write to say they want to do xyz, but there’s always a reason. An excuse, if you will, why they can’t.

The only difference between obstacles and stepping stones is the way in which we use themYes, there are valid reasons why people may not be able to live their dream. Maybe they are responsible for taking care of elderly parents or maybe their health isn’t what it used to be. There are reasons why some people simply can’t achieve a dream.

Justin over at The Great Family Escape wrote a great post a while ago about that very idea. He says, “People lose their jobs.  They lose their spouses.  They lose their children.  Kids are born to parents that can not care for themselves, and parents have children that will always need constant care.  People get hurt.  People get cancer.  People get stuck in situations that, despite all their hard work and mindfulness, they simply could not control.  Life just happens.”

For those people, there is a real reason why they can’t live their dream. For most, there are excuses.

I know many people look at us and our journey to the ends of the world and feel it just happened. It’s like the journey was handed to us on a silver platter and we didn’t have to work to make it happen at all.

Packing up the house

We packed many boxes to store in the barn

That’s simply not the way it was.

Although the financial side of our journey was fairly easy to figure out, there were other aspects that were anything but. Each and every one of those things could have been enough to cause us to call it all off.

In order for us to get on that plane to Alaska, it was a solid year of non-stop, dedicated, all-consuming preparation.

We made the decision to rent out our house while we traveled, but to do that the bathroom needed to be remodeled and garage door fixed. The sprinkler system required an upgrade.  The barn needed to be painted and the siding repaired.

The boy’s tree house had to be disassembled to avoid liability should a kid fall out.

We needed a website but couldn’t afford to pay anyone to do it for us.  John needed to learn how to build it and keep it updated from the road.


Sorting everything we owned and deciding what to sell was an enormous task

How does one manage finances while on the road?  I spent hours researching and set up online banking and auto pay for each and every bill that came in.

Contact Guinness World Records.  Figure out how to ship the bikes and gear to the northern end of the world.  Get everything we owned sorted into three pilessell, store, or take with.

Research and buy bikesLook for sponsors.  Send letters to junk mail places to try to stop the flow.  Contact a property management firm.

And all the time, try to maintain some sense of normality.

The boys attended classes at a local elementary school and played on soccer teams.  They took swim lessons at the YMCA and Daryl joined the swim team.  I headed out to a local high school every morning, where I taught Special Education classes.  John became our stay-at-home dad, working hard to keep things together as we dismantled our lives.

Pile of gear

Our pile of gear to take with us grew bigger every day

It was a whirlwind of activity, but each piece of the puzzle was critical.  We couldn’t – simply couldn’t – take our boys up to Alaska and not be prepared.  No detail was too small; nothing could be overlooked.  Every piece of gear we carried with us was essential.

We made our lists and checked them twice. Every day we plugged away at the preparation and slowly checked things off the list. For every item we checked off, it seemed, we added three more. There were times when my brain was spinning and I was certain there was no way we would be ready by the time we were leaving. It was crazy, hectic, and frenzied.

In Prudhoe Bay

It took a solid year of prep, but we made it to Prudhoe Bay ready to take off

When I look back upon those months, I realize that any one of those steps could have easily stopped us from heading out. We could have said, “We can’t head out because remodeling the bathroom is too much” or “Sorting and packing and selling our stuff is too hard. It’s easier to stay here.”

Those would all have been valid excuses. It was an enormous amount of work to get everything ready to go and it would have been much easier to forget it. We worked our rear ends off for an entire year preparing for our journey. For many people, it would have been easy to use all that work as an excuse for not living their dream.

But we didn’t. We made the decision to push through it and made it onto the road eventually. I have absolutely no regrets and am more than happy that we didn’t allow the demands to be excuses for not living our dream.

Where are you? Are you living your dream or have a valid reason for not? Or are you making excuses?

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

On carrying food and water for four cyclists

“How on earth did you manage for food and water on the road? How did you carry enough fresh water? Food?”

A friend asked me that the other day. She’s traveling in an RV and was rummaging around trying to find additional space for food. In an RV. And we were on bikes. How indeed?

It takes a lot of food and water to keep four cyclists going

It takes a lot of food and water to keep four cyclists going

Packing enough food for the four of us was, at times, a challenge. Not as much of a challenge as carrying enough water for the family though.

As the team member in charge of keeping us all adequately fed and properly hydrated, it was my job to make sure we had enough food and water stashed on the bikes. Although there were a few times when I miscalculated, I have to say that I’m pretty darn proud that I managed to get all four of us to the end of the world healthily!

Carrying food for four hungry cyclists is a daunting thought. Carrying food for four hungry cyclists for ten days is even more daunting! Needless to say, there were times when I was carrying a lot of food. A heaping pile of it. Yes, it was heavy.

What did we eat on the road?

It varied widely depending on where we were and what was available. There were two basic categories of types of food I carried – snacks and meals.

Fresh peas

Fresh peas made for a delicious, healthy snack on the road

Snacks were what we pulled out throughout the day. They needed to be easily accessible and quick to eat. These are some snack foods we frequently carried:


  • Dried fruit and nuts – depending on where we were these were more or less available. I tried to stock up when I could find them knowing there wouldn’t be any for a long time. They are easy to carry and nutritious so I carried a LOT!
  • Fruit – when we left a town, I typically carried five pounds or more of fresh fruit. We ate that the first day or two out, then switched over to dried fruit. Granadillas and tangerines were great in Colombia and Ecuador; apples worked well up north and down south.
  • Granola bars – these came in an incredible array of varieties in the USA but in other countries was hit or miss. When I found them, I stocked up. It wasn’t unusual that I would have fifty granola bars of various types stashed in my panniers.
  • Crackers and cheese – we tried to get whole grain cracker if available. Cheese traveled well as long as it wasn’t blazing hot out. That means that cheese was a city treat throughout Central America, but a staple in the highlands.
  • Fresh broccoli with dip – that only worked up north; dip doesn’t exist down south.
  • Carrot sticks or fresh peas – very easy in the USA with packages of baby carrots. We had to cut our own farther south which was a hassle so it didn’t happen as often. All four of us love fresh peas straight from the pod so I frequently carried a couple pounds of peas for breaktime.
  • Beef jerky – this was a HUGE treat if we could find it. Good source of protein.
  • Yogurt – we needed to eat it at the first break which meant it was only good for the first day out. It was also a pain to pack so that it didn’t spill but oh, so worth it!
  • Boiled eggs – these would last a couple days as long as they didn’t get smashed in my panniers.
  • Sausage – especially in Argentina, the sausages were great. They were easy to pack, high in calories, and Davy loved them. The rest of us weren’t thrilled, but they were a great way to get extra calories into Davy’s growing body.
  • Bread – every tiny town had a bakery of some sort, so I stocked up with a dozen or more rolls. They were cheap and lightweight so a great item to tack on. If we didn’t eat them, I threw them away at the next stop.
  • Cookies – I hated the idea of feeding our bodies with junk but, truth be told, there wasn’t a whole lot of food in many of the places we visited and cookies were the only kind of portable snack food I could find.
Cooking dinner while camping

We enjoyed a hot meal after a long day on the road

We typically only cooked one meal per day – in the evening usually. If we were short on water, we didn’t bother – the amount of water needed for cooking and cleaning up was sometimes more than we could spare. On those nights, we ate more snacks.


We added canned tuna or other canned meat and some cheese and chopped veggies to any of the packaged side dishes to make them into a hearty, filling meal. These are some of the foods we ate for dinner:

  • Rice-a-Roni – lots of different varieties, and most countries had something similar
  • Instant mashed potatoes – these were very quick and easy. They were perfect for those days when we arrived into a campsite late and famished.
  • Pasta – we either used one of the side dish mixes with sauce included or bought plain pasta and a jar of sauce. We ate a lot of pasta in Alaska and Canada, but the scarcity of water made it difficult to cook in Argentina.
  • Soup mixes – we liked to add some sausage or other meat and some veggies
  • Fresh potatoes – we preferred real potatoes over instant so carried them whenever we were able. Because they are so heavy, I only carried them if I knew we would have water for our first night out so I could boil them.

When we left a city, I generally carried a few fresh vegetables to throw into the dishes above. The veggies were heavy, so I tried to use them in the first day or two. After that, we were down to only dried food.

I know what you’re thinking –

“How on earth did we carry all that food?”

And that is a very good question.

Carrying food while cycle touring

Although I was the main food-carrier, all four of us sometimes carried some

I was the main food hauler. When we left a city, I had my panniers stuffed with food. I mean STUFFED! I packed meticulously and managed to cram a lot of food in each of my two panniers that were dedicated to food storage.

But you’re right – sometimes that wasn’t enough space. I generally left town with a great big plastic grocery bag tied on to my rear rack filled with fruits and vegetables. And if we would be on the road for more than a couple days before hitting the next grocery store, Davy had a bag too. And sometimes I even strapped something to the back of the tandem.

Food was critical and we knew we weren’t going anywhere without it, so we lashed, strapped, or buckled in on our bikes wherever we could.

…and then there was water.

We carried a lot of water bottles. Between water bottle cages on the bikes and both trailers, we were able to carry twelve liters of water on a normal day. As long as it wasn’t too hot or we didn’t have too far to go, that was plenty for the day.

There were many days when it wasn’t even close to being enough.

Amazingly, for the first 13,000 miles of our journey, we never had to carry extra water. Throughout Alaska and Canada we passed many streams and rivers where we could filter water. Once we got farther south, we passed a small village or ranch house or posada (restaurant in the middle of nowhere that caters to truckers) at least once per day. Water was not an issue.

And then we reached Argentina.

For the first time in 2.5 years, we had to carry more water than our water bottles would hold. We started saving 2-liter Coke bottles to fill with water and strap to the bikes. Depending on how far we had to go before the next town, there were times when we carried an extra twenty liters on top of the 12 we normally carried. The bikes were really heavy then.

When we left towns, both Davy and I were loaded down

When we left towns, both Davy and I were loaded down

For the most part, we drank plain water while cycling. Our water bottles stayed cleaner without all the sugar to feed the beasties that tend to gather in them and we just felt better drinking water. Once we arrived in a town, we bought some kind of juice (if it happened to be available, which wasn’t often) or soda.


There were a few times when plain water just didn’t cut it. Throughout Central America we were sweating so much and losing so much salt that, even though we drank enough water, we were getting terribly dehydrated. We discovered packets of rehydration salts in the pharmacies that were a great help.

The dehydration salts tasted vile, but we felt the difference in our bodies immediately. We quickly learned to recognize the signs of dehydration and added a packet of the salts to a water bottle to ward it off.

Inca Kola got me through the Peruvian desert

And then we got to Peru. One day we had some Inca Kola leftover so I strapped it on my trailer. That day I took a few sips of it throughout the day and discovered that I felt a LOT better than I had been feeling. After that, I made it a point to pick up a liter of Inca Kola every evening and I drank it slowly throughout the day. I have no idea what’s in that bright yellow, bubble gum flavor soda, but it sure helped me fight the headwinds along the Peruvian coastal desert!

Overall, I think we did remarkably well given the conditions we passed through. Yes, we ate Oreos for breakfast a few times, but we did the best we could.

There were times when it was a major challenge to find food and water for the four of us, but we never went hungry and never collapsed from dehydration.

Sometimes, good enough is… well, good enough.

Carrying food and water while bike touring

Amazingly, we rarely ran out of food or water

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Five essential/useless items for travelers

Every traveler has them – those items they’d never be caught dead without. And, mostly likely, another traveler would consider those very things useless. It’s an interesting thing, this travel idea.

With that in mind, a bunch of us family travel bloggers are all posting today with our lists of essential/useless items. I can’t wait to see how many of my gotta-have items are on others’ throw-away list.


Bikes – OK, this one is pretty basic. I’ve already written enough about why I prefer traveling on bikes.
Beads – John would vehemently disagree with me on this one, but I think every traveler should have some kind of craft or something to occupy the time when you’re stuck in your tent in the pouring rain.
Chapstick – dry lips are so lame!
Kindle (or other e-reader) – we used to have a whole pannier dedicated to books. Not anymore – and we can carry more books!
Fanny pack – quick and easy for when I leave my bike.


Day pack – big and bulky and a pain to strap on a bike.
Towel – it just gets wet and then we have to dry it somehow. We just use our t-shirts and then wear them dry. That being said, when it was cold a towel was nice to have.
Jeans – but then, I don’t get jeans even at home. They just seem so uncomfortable and hard to wash. Get tights instead – much more comfy and easier to wash/dry.
Camelback – I know some cyclists prefer the Camelback, but I hate having that thing on my back. I’ll use water bottles.
Cell phone – I mean, who am I gonna call when I don’t know anyone? I carried one for a little while – should have kept it just as an alarm clock.


Here are lists from other travelers – love how we all have such different opinions!

Edventure Project

Livin on the Road

Wander Mom

Snaps and Blabs

Tripping Mom

Got Passport

Wandering Educators

Around the World in Easy Ways

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Newsletter – Ready for takeoff

June 6, 2008


Getting the barn ready to store our stuff. It’s an old dairy barn, so this area used to be the feeding trough. Now, the boys have remodeled it to make it more efficient for stacking boxes.

It’s time. We’ll fly out on Sunday – and I’m scared spitless.

We’re doing the last minute things right now – getting the last of our belongings in storage, cleaning the house, and packing the gear that will go with us. It all just feels way too overwhelming.

The other day I sat down to write a blog entry, and this is what came out of my fingers: I feel like I’m standing on the edge of a cliff – about to throw myself off into the abyss below. No safety net, no idea how far down, no nothing. Just jump, and hope like hell someone reaches out His hand and catches us. Now we are even closer to our departure day and I’m drawing ever nearer to that precipice. Soon I’ll take a final deep breath and plunge over the side – and wonder what will happen.

I would like to put out a plea for prayers and good thoughts – there is way too much totally out of our control that’ll happen in the next few days. Although I’ve spent hours and hours on the phone with travel agents and customer service reps from the airlines, I’m still not convinced they will take our tandem on the plane. Yes, I’ve been assured over and over again that it won’t be a problem – we’ll have to pay oversize, but they will take it – but I’m not sure that’s actually what will happen when we get there.

packing up

Packing up the house has been a family affair. It’s been fun watching the boys work together to get everything boxed up and into the barn.

Then there’s the additional problem of everything making it safely to Prudhoe Bay. Each and every item we are taking is critical, and if anything doesn’t make it, we’re stuck – at the end of the earth. Or if a bike gets damaged somehow, I have no idea what we will do.

So – please, please, PLEASE pray as the day comes closer, and especially on Sunday and Monday as we’re traveling to Prudhoe Bay.

I want to thank you all for your notes of encouragement and your support. This endeavor is way bigger than I ever dreamed – I still can’t believe we’re actually doing it. Once we get on the road, all will be well. It’s just the getting there that’s the problem.

We will be out of touch as of Sunday morning, and will update our blog as soon as we arrive into Fairbanks – which we expect will be sometime the last week in June.

Happy trails!


books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel