Where did you start?
We started in Seattle, Washington.
Where are you headed?
We are headed to Houston, Texas by an indirect path through St. Augustine, Florida.
How long have you been doing this?
We started on March 31, 2017.
What do the kids do for school?
We homeschool. We spend our afternoons at parks or libraries doing schoolwork on our short days of riding. I pre-positioned supply boxes with friends and family around the country, to include homeschool supplies and workbooks, that we pick up along our way.
Did you get those bikes custom-made?
No. We bought Frank on Craigslist in Portland, Oregon. We were not able to find a used small frame triple for me, so we ordered Eleanor from Co-Motion Cycles. The specifications are pre-existing and then made to order.
How much do one of those [bikes] cost?
While this question is one of the most common (and often asked without any preamble), I always feel awkward answering it. We basically traded our 10 year old minivan for a new triple, and paid a fraction of that for the used one. Feel free to click through Co-Motion’s website to find a more precise answer.
You said you started in Seattle, but how much of that have you actually ridden your bikes [vs. driven]?
With few exceptions, we have ridden our bikes the entire way. We were ferried two days worth of riding in western Montana due to icy pass conditions. We were again ferried two days worth of riding in southern Indiana due to bicycle breakdowns and a birthday celebration promise that we wanted to keep.
How old is the little one?
Lil’ Mo turned four about a week before we departed, but she is pretty sure she is much older than that.
Do you mostly camp?
Yes, we mostly camp. We stay with Warm Showers hosts about once per week on average, occasionally twice. We stay at hotels about every 10 days to reset hygiene and run errands without the burden of our load slowing us down in more densely populated areas. We camp the remaining nights.
All of your stuff fits in there???
Yes, and let me assure you, it is heavy. Sleeping bags, mats, and liner bags for six people; two tents, rain gear for six, and a toiletry bag round out one trailer. The other trailer carries our camp kitchen (two burner stove with associated cookware and fuel bottles; a plastic container with spices; other cooking incidentals), snack food, regular groceries for six hearty appetites, laundry supplies, first aid kit, and a tub with our homeschool supplies on the top rack. We each get a single pannier bag for our clothes, shoes, and entertainment. One small pannier bag is used for tools and bike parts. The last pannier bag holds our electronics (our phones and the tablet I’m using to write this), chargers, batteries, and maps.
How many miles do you average a day?
We average somewhere between 25 and 30 miles a day, including rest days (but NOT including our two weeks off at Lake Michigan). Hilly terrain slows us down, but we make up for it on flat ground.
How do you do food? Do you eat out or cook?
We rarely eat out. It is just too expensive for six people. We grocery shop almost daily, depending upon the distribution of grocery stores. Food is heavy (and refrigeration is limited), so we trade shopping efficiency for weight management when possible. I collected one-pot and skillet-only recipes to assist us with economical and healthy dinners. Lunches usually consist of sandwiches and fruit that we can throw together at a park or on the side of the road. Breakfasts are usually yogurt and granola, oatmeal, a baked good from a grocery store, or pop-tarts. We rarely cook breakfast because it slows down our already slow morning exit process.
What has been your favorite experience or best part of the tour so far?
I don’t think we can single out a favorite. There have been so many highlights along the way in a variety of states with so many different people. Boat rides, goat births, horseback riding, water play, 30 mph tail winds, lake cabins, cave crickets, completely disconnecting for five days, being welcomed into other people’s homes and families…. It’s too hard to narrow down.
How do the kids like doing this?
Like any other way of life, there are good and bad days. There are days of disinclination, the combination of heat and hills brings it out the most, but the majority of the time they are happy to be outside and exploring. All four kids consistently cite seeing wildlife as an incentive to keep pedaling.
How do you haul those [bikes]?
We generally don’t haul them; we ride them. When broken down or prohibited by weather, we have fit them on a flat-bed trailer, in a 10 foot U-Haul truck, or precariously in the back of a full-size pick-up. They are too long to fit a normal vehicle bike rack (roof or tailgate) or a bus bike rack.
How can you afford to do this?
We have the benefit of a military retirement with healthcare coverage to finance this adventure. It is not enough to support a family in a house, but it is enough to pay for camping, occasional hotel stays, and food.