FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact for photos and interviews:
John Vogel and Nancy Sathre-Vogel
familyonbikes@gmail.com
Sample photos available at: http://familyonbikes.org/coppermine

 

Family Cycles 17,300 Miles from Alaska to Argentina

The Vogel family has reached the end of the world! The family - mom Nancy, dad John, 13-year-old twin brothers Davy and Daryl spent nearly three years cycling south from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska and reached Ushuaia, Argentina at the southern tip of South America on March 21, 2011. The boys are now Guinness World Record holders as the youngest people to cycle the length of the Americas.

Carrying everything they needed on their bicycles - tent, sleepěng bags, cooking pot and stove, homeschool supplies, and spare parts - the four adventurers cycled through deserts and rainforests, over high mountain passes and along miles of coastline. They were chased by a bear, robbed at a border crossing, and camped in tempertures so cold their water bottles were frozen solid. They also experienced more goodwill from strangers than miles they pedaled.

The family used their educational background to bring the world to under-privileged children in New York City through Reach the World (RTW). Reach the World is an educational non-profit organization with the mission of linking students in under-funded schools to online, global expeditions . These expeditions have the power to expand learning beyond the four walls of the classroom. The cyclists were linked to classrooms via RTW's interactive website and live Internet chats.

You can read more about the Vogel family and their adventures at www.familyonbikes.org

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

How did this trip come about? or Whose idea was this anyway?
  John - The idea was planted in my head on our previous trip when I met other cycle-tourists who were riding from Alaska to Argentina. I marveled at their adventurism and inspired from the tales of the road that lay ahead of them. A trip of this magnitude grew and grew until one day after a particularly hard day in the classroom I said to myself - why not? Our kids learned so much on the previous trip, I was certain they would do the same on this one. It would be a once-in-a-lifetime family journey where the experiences would be our teacher and the road ahead our source of imagination, creativity, and inspiration. When I first brought this up with the family, Nancy thought I was crazy. The kids were enthusiastic, but Nancy had big-time reservations. After thinking about it for a while we all agreed to make the commitment to undertake this epic journey.

Nancy - I wish I knew - all I can say is that the planets were aligned right and our lucky star was shining. The genesis goes back to 2006 when John brought up the idea of a year-long trip around the USA and Mexico. My first reaction was, "Are you crazy?!" But then I started thinking about The American Dream and questioned if a normal, typical life in the suburbs was really what I wanted. We spent one year pedaling 9300 miles around the USA and Mexico in 2006-07 and, when we finished, we knew one thing - we wanted more. The Pan American dream was born.

 
What have been the highlights of the journey?
  Daryl - Liard Hot Springs in British Columbia, Canada which had a lot of caves to play in. A river hike in Belize - there was a river that went through the jungle, and you could float down it and slide down small waterfalls.

Davy - A river hike in Belize where we floated down the river and then climbed on rocks and jumped or dove back in. Riding through the tundra because we could see for a LONG way in any direction and it was perfectly flat. The Galapagos Islands because we got to walk right up to the animals and they didn't run away. British Columbia, Canada because of all the animals (bison, bears, big horn sheep, caribou) and Liard Hot Springs because it was warm and we could play in it.

John - The high point of the journey is establishing a deep, meaningful relationship with David and Daryl and being with them as they gradually grow from children to adults. Watching them evolve from self-centered juveniles into giving and caring adolescents is definitely something I will most remember about this trip.

Nancy - For me the best part, by far, has been the kind, generous people we've met throughout the journey. It's the oil pipeline worker who hid a big bag of snacks for us at the pump station gate, the guide who handed over all their left-over food, the families who invited us into their homes for a night or a week, the kids who delivered a bag of apples to us by the side of the road, the woman who brought us a big plate of tacos when all we ordered was tea, and the man who took us out mountain biking in the Andes. Rarely does a day go by when we aren't touched by the generosity of some kind soul.

 
What was the scariest/most dangerous moment?
  Daryl - One time in Albuquerque a car hit us. On our last trip (2006-07) we were chased by a dog out onto the road and a truck sped around the corner and almost hit us.

Davy - When a bear chased me in Canada. Me and Mom saw a bear and stopped to take a picture of it. Right about when we stopped the bear came up on the road and started walking toward us. After a little while it went back down in the ditch on the side of the road. We started to leave but the bear jumped right next to Mom. I was about 20 feet away and Mom wanted me to go so I wouldn't see her get mauled. Then I left very slowly and the bear chased me. We rode very fast and eventually got away.

John - In Moab, Utah we were trying to get to a person's house after a long day of riding. We thought it would be an easy ride, but we ended up riding down a long deserted road for miles and miles. It was pitch dark and no shoulders. Traffic sped down the road and didn't see us until they were almost upon us so whenever we saw a vehicle, we'd get off our bikes and walk off the road. After asking directions over and over, a man concerned about our safety lead us in his vehicle to the house we were searching for.

Nancy - Hands down, our bear encounter in British Columbia. I've never been so scared in my life!

 
Have you ever wanted to quit?
  Daryl - No

Davy - No

John - No, I never wanted to quit but I've questioned whether undertaking this journey was the best thing for us - both for our children and for our finances.

Nancy - Yes. In northern Peru I felt like Peru was conspiring against us. I wrote in my blog that Peru was kicking us, beating us, spitting upon us - I was down like I had never been before. It was the kids' motivation that kept me going and Daryl who helped me put things in perspective. "Mom," he said as we walked the streets of Trujillo one day, "It won't help to complain about it - that won't change anything. All you can do is keep going and things will turn around eventually." He was right - as we continued south, things improved trememdously.

 
Describe a typical day on the road.
  Daryl - We ride about 50 km, then get a hotel room and do our math. After that we watch T.V. or read.

Davy - Riding, riding, riding, and then stop for the day and unpack and sleep in the tent or a hotel room. We stop to eat every once in a while when we ride.

John - One great thing about this trip is that there is no typical day. If there were a typical day it would be riding somewhere between 20 and 100 kms, stopping for many breaks and lunch along the way. Depending on the situation we'd either camp out in our tents or find a hotel for the night.

Nancy - A typical day? Are you kidding me? Although there is no such thing as a 'typical' day, we have a lot more routine in our lives on the road than we ever did at home. Back home, all four of us were pulled in different directions and we never knew what one another was doing - the boys had their own classroom assignments and social events; John and I had our separate jobs. Now, all four of us are working together toward a common goal and are focussed together. I would say that a 'typical' distance we ride is about 50 - 80 km as long as conditions are good, but we've had days when we were more than happy with 20 km!

 
How do you handle the kids' education?
  John - The only formal lessons they recieve are in math, which I teach. Writing comes in the form of journals and essays about locations they visit and history, science, and geography are taught when an appropriate opportunity arises. Reading is something they never have to be prodded to do; they are both avid readers. No need to say anything about physical education!!

Nancy - For the most part, we allow Mother Nature and our journey itself to be the boys' teachers - they do a much better job than we ever could! We take advantage of educational opportunties along the way (Galapagos Islands, Nazca Lines, Macchu Pichu, etc...) and make sure we talk with the boys about what they are seeing. When they climb up over a 15,000-ft pass to get to the altiplano, they learn about the geological forces that shaped the earth. They research and write about places they see; they read voraciously. The only subject we feel they do not get from the journey is math - we carry math books and the boys do their lessons in hotel rooms.

 
Where do you sleep at night?
  John - We have slept in many different places. If we can't find a hotel or a place to set our tent we get creative. We've slept in schools, fire stations, churches, and numerous other unconventional places.

Nancy - When we first started touring as a family, I found myself getting nervous as evening approached and we still didn't have a place to sleep. Over time, when we managed to find a safe place night after night after night, I began to relax and trust that we would find something - and we always have. In our more-than-three-years on the road, we have always had a safe place to sleep - not necessarily comfortable, but always safe. In North America, we nearly always camped; in Central and South America we've mostly stayed in small hotels. During our time on the road, we've slept in a dead gold miner's house, next to the interstate highway, under the oil pipeline, in fire stations, on the altiplano, and - many times - in the houses of kind, generous people who have invited us in.

 
What do you eat?
  John - That's a hard one! Basically when we are not in a city we pretty much eat what the locals do. This cuisine varies from country to country - sometimes it's delicious and other times a bit challenging to the pallet to stomach. When we are in a city (which is not very often) we go to the grocery store and buy ingredients for sandwiches. We try to buy as many fruits and vegetables as possible.

Nancy - That has changed over time. In North America, we shopped in grocery stores and cooked nearly all our meals over our tiny camp stove. Starting in Mexico, we started eating in restaurants more as they were more affordable. Now, we typically eat at least one meal per day in a restaurant eating the standard meal from the area - it generally consists of vegetable soup, rice or pasta, some type of meat, and a small salad. The rest of the day we eat plenty of snacks - fresh or dried fruit, cheese or peanut butter sandwiches, crackers, or nuts.

 
How do you afford it?
  John - Our primary source of income is our house which we rent out. We also make some money off our website/blog and from writing articles for various magazines and websites. We haven't dug into our savings yet but that could change in the future. We also have several companies that sponsor us.

Nancy - The main thing to remember here is that traveling as we do is fairly cheap - the four of us live on around $1500 per month. Around half of our expenses are covered by the rent from our home back in Idaho. The remaining portion is covered by donations, income from our website, articles I write, etc... Anything not covered at the end of the month comes out of our retirement account. We feel the time with the boys now is worth spending some of our retirement money - if we don't take advantage of this time now, we will lose the opportunity as the boys are growing fast!

 
What do you carry?
  John - Too much. Lots of clothes, spare bicycle parts, tools, 2 computers, 2 tents, sleeping bags, sleeping mats, pillows, cooking gear, journals and reading books for everyone, 2 large math books - the list goes on and on.

Nancy - We have to be completely self-contained and prepared for all weather conditions. It was blazing hot throughout Central America and bitter cold in winter up in Peru and Bolivia. Many times, we find night falling when we are out in the middle of nowhere, so we need to be able to camp anywhere. We carry tent and sleeping bags, stove and pot, homeschooling supplies, clothing for four seasons, tools to completely rebuild the bikes and spare parts for the parts we feel are most likely to fail, computers to maintain the website, etc... The boys each have one bag each where they can keep their items; they each have a few toys and whatnot. The only toy that has come all the way is Daryl's blue stuffed monkey called Lil Huggies - he peeks out from Daryl's handlebar bag!