In 1986, Becky and I rode across the country on our honeymoon, riding 3730 miles in 53 days from LA to Boston. In 1993, we rode a tandem from LA to Savannah in Race Across AMerica in 11 days and 9 hours. We’ve also hosted 36 bike tours and camps around the country.
But until this weekend, our kids had never truly experienced a bike trip. Sure, we have done plenty of short rides with them in and around Canyon and Amarillo, and Becky took them on the 50-mile ride at the 2006 Hotter’n'Hell in Wichita Falls. Earlier this year, while out on the tandem with Becca, I asked her, “Would you like to take a family bike trip sometime?”
“Sure!” she replied. “When can we go?”
It took a little planning, as well as shoe-horning into our schedules, but the idea became reality as we took off on a 4-day ride to Lubbock and back with Becca and Bailee. We were totally uncertain how they would hold up in the rigors of multi-day touring, and had contingency plans in case things didn’t work out.
But we were able to toss those worries aside quickly as they showed us that all their previous travel experiences and exposure to our bike tours had in fact prepared them nicely for the task at hand.
So we rolled out of our driveway on a Friday in late summer, kids on board and belongings in tow, headed for The Hub City to our south, and into uncharted territory in juvenile endurance.
And on Monday, some 78 hours and 241 miles later, we returned to home base. The kids were still laughing and singing, and none the worse for the wear. Mom and Dad were pretty tired, though. The phrase “human tractor pull” comes to mind, even though the kids were indeed contributing to the power output (in Becca’s case, her drivetrain was not independent of Becky’s, so she literally pedalled the whole distance).
Our trip was centered on Plainview, where we spent Night 1 and Night 3. Night 2 was spent on Lubbock’s south side. In each case, we made sure the motels had swimming pools so the kids would have something to do in the evening. Keeping the daily distances down to a very manageable level allowed us to take frequent stops, and also maintain a more leisurely approach to the tour. Had we tried to go 80 or 100 miles, it likely would have added too much stress for all of us to handle.
Never mind that we had headwinds the first three days. And the National Weather “Not A Chance Of Rain Today” Service even tossed in a surprise thunderstorm on Day 1 near Tulia that we managed to stay out of only by taking a break at Rip Griffin’s Truckstop.
But Monday’s tailwind was generous and made up for everything encountered previously. Our speeds jumped considerably (mind you, 15-17 mph was blistering fast compared to the 11-12 we held into the wind). It’s nice to finish a tour on a high note, not gasping for air, but instead cruising in feeling like you’ve made a statement.
Our gear was a hodgepodge of stuff in the bike shed, including: One tandem we used in 1993 RAAM, Becky’s mountain bike, Bailee’s Burley Piccolo add-on bike, and two versions of the B.O.B. trailer. These ably carried our gear, as well as my laptop (I never really get away from my students during the semester). Since we had four different size tires on our rigs, I had to carry a variety of spare tubes and tires, adding more weight, but necessary nonetheless. Becky’s rig measured 12 feet in length, while mine was 14 feet.
Would we do it again? Absolutely. We all came away from this experience with a lot of good. We learned that family bike travel, in our case, is something our kids are very much in tune with. We were able to demonstrate for them that we need not be reliant on fossil fuels every time we want to go somewhere. And for the kids, they learned that self-esteem is earned, not handed out on a silver platter.
Which has me scheming the next Family Affair Tour. They’re not yet ready to go coast to coast, but I see multiple states in our future together.
Click the widget below to launch a slideshow of our tour.