Helmond (NL) to Berlin (D)

It was very important for me to finish this big trip slowly and in a way adaption into society would be easier. Therefore we decided to cycle in Europe over the summer months. As I already mentioned in my previous post Peter worked a big part of June and July. I didn’t want to wait and stay in one place for such a long time. Cycling with the children and Luna all by myself was an idea that formed already earlier in our trip. I have been touring a lot in the last 10 years but I hardly ever toured alone. Peter and I always shared the responsibility for the children and discussed every decision that had to be made. Now, at the end of our big tour, I had the feeling that I knew everything about touring and wild camping.  I felt confident that I would manage on my own. It was a welcome new challenge. I wanted to know how much I learned in the past two years and how strong I am now.

It was easier than expected. My trip, my decision, my rules. I had to be strikt with Ben and Esmé every now and then. They had to help me more than when Peter is with us and I had to give them more responsibility than usual. For example: Whenever we had to do groceries one adult plus one child would stay outside with the bikes and take care nothing would be stolen. The other adult plus child would do groceries. Now it was only me with two children and a dog. I told Ben that I can’t leave Esmé outside the store with the bikes. She simply is too young for that. But Ben and Luna would be a good care taker team. I explained why it had to be this way. He and Luna stayed in front of the supermarket with the bikes every day. Esmé always choose something she knew Ben would like (e.g. salami, cheese, grapes). This was his reward for taking care of our stuff. Coming from the US, where you would never ever be allowed to leave your six year old child in front of the supermarket alone, this situation stressed me every time. In Europe it is more common to give your children more freedom and responsibility but I was still more used to the American culture.

Another big thing was Ben having to cycle every single kilometer by himself. We always had the opportunity to attach him to an adult bike on our way through North America. Now Luna was too big to carry in a box in the front of my bike. Luna and Esmé shared a two seat child trailer which was not the best but the only solution I could think of. “No Luna, this is my half of the trailer and this is yours.” is a sentence I heard several times a day. Luna and Esmé were fighting a lot. I longed for Peter and his bike, pulling Esmé and her bike, which would result in less fighting and growling. Ben on the other hand did great on his own bike. We averaged 40km a day in the first week which slowly increased to 50km a day average with a maximum of 68km in one day. Ben needed a rest day or two every four days. I am very proud of his achievement. He did a great job.

Finally we made it to Berlin without taking a train or a bus. We wild camped almost every day (except on rest days). I also planned almost the whole route by myself. (Only in the beginning I followed the R1 cycle route.) I feel proud of myself and the children and now know that I am capable of doing tougher things than I thought. While possessing a strong personality and will I do underestimate myself a lot of times. I learned that about myself on our way from Helmond (NL) to Berlin (D).

In my next post: The last kilometers back home – from Berlin to Austria

(Sorry for the long gaps between the posts …) 

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The end of our adventures

We flew from Mexico City to Denver, Colorado and exploerd the area around Aspen for a couple of days. After that we drove to Moab, Utah and stayed there with friends. We left our bikes and camping gear in Mexico City. We gave everything away to people who, we thought, would really use our gear. We travelled light, four panniers was all we owned for about 3 weeks. Our bikes were old and worn out, same with most of our camping gear.

We flew from the US to Amsterdam at the beginning of June. It was not easy to bring our dear and most valuable souvenier Luna to Europe but we made it and she is now a happy european dog.

We bought new bikes and camping gear in the Netherlands and I am currently with Ben, Esmé and Luna on my way to Berlin. Peter got a job offer as guide for Austin Adventures and guided tours in the past three weeks. He will join us in Berlin in a couple of days and then we will start the last part of our big family adventure: we will cycle back home to Austria and finish our trip after 21 months on the road.

To be continued …

Luna

As much as we loved the South of Mexico a year ago, the much we loved the North this year. It is a beautiful cactus country which we enjoyed to explore.

One day, at the end of March we climbed a big hill, just a little bit north of the town Ciudad del Maìz in the province San Luis Potosì. It was extremely hot, we were in the tropics again, and on top we found a little chapel and some benches where we took a break. After about twenty minutes we saw a little creature moving in the middle of a cactus, leaves and trash.

It was a little puppy dog. She was very weak, could hardly walk, was full of flees and her tummy looked like a baloon (full of parasites). We had the feeling that she couldn’t see or smell well. We offered her water and soaked some bread but she was extremely shy. She ran back to her cactus whenever she was done drinking. We stayed with her for about 1 1/2 hours and then decided to take her.

Of course we didn’t have any dog basket, crate or trailer for her. She was tiny anyway. We went to the next supermarket and bought proper dog food. We went to the veterinary several times and helped her getting rid of the flees and parasites. Now she is healthy again. Her name is Luna. The kids are thrilled to have a dog now. Especially Ben. The first thing he does when he gets up in the morning is cuddling and playing with Luna. Sometimes I have the feeling that he understands and cares more for animals than for people.

In the last couple of weeks we also made some new and special human mexican friends. In the little town Jalpan we took a break of a couple of days on a campground next to a pool. All four of us were ill the day before we arrived there. We felt very weak, couldn’t eat well and slept bad. We needed to gain strength again because from Jalpan we planned a huge climb of 2500 altimeters up into the mountains. You can’t cycle such a climb with 80kg of luggage without eating well. Anyway, there on this little campground we met an argentinan-mexican family. They had three beautiful kids. The parents were artisans and made beautiful jewelery.

The kids played all day long together and Peter and I felt a strong connections with the parents. It was hard to say goodbye.

The climb up to the pass was beautiful and it was not as hard as I thought. We cycled all of it, without walking a meter. It just went up, up, up for two days.

And then we got a huge downhill and a beautiful view of the mountains we just crossed.

After this we got ill again! This time we got an infection of our eyes. Esmé and I were first. Then Ben and finally Peter. We stayed at another campground next to a swimmingpool. This time in Huichapan, 200km north of Mexico City. Ben had so much fun in the water and we realized his eye infection too late. His infection got so bad that he couldn’t open his eyes without pain. He stayed in the tent for two days, eyes closed. One night he had a high fever. We worried a lot and went to a doctor with him.

The doctor cleaned his eyes and gave us medication which we had to use every hour. We had to take care of hygiene, wash his and our hands more often, wash his clothes and towels. Ben was not allowed to be in the sun, wind and water for 7 days. All not that easy if you camp. We decided to ask a friend from Mexico City to pick us up. We needed a house and a washing machine. But there was no need to skip the last 200km to Mexico City for all of us. Therefore I decided to continue, together with Esmé, by bike without the boys.

It was a different feeling to be on the road only with the two of us. I couldn’t share the responsabilities with Peter and I had much more time for Esmé then normal. It was fun and we had a good time together.

Once reunited in Mexico City we visited different friends. We did a lot of great daytrips to museums and churches and we had a surprisingly calm and quiet boattour with Embarcadero Belem in Xochimilco.

By reaching Mexico City we crossed a big part of North America, at least from west to east.

After our last blogpost, in which we announced to fly either to South America or to Europe after reaching Mexico City, we got an email from our dear friends Scott and Patsy. They live in Utah and Colorado and invited us to come and visit them again. We decided to follow their invitation and enjoy the US again.

Of course we can’t leave Luna behind in Mexico. We took her on our flight.

Mayolo, Mayte and baby Mayolo helped us a lot with organising our flight and all the paperwork for Luna. They got inspired by our story and lifestyle. They are currently preparing their first cycletour. We hope to meet them again.

I promise to share the stories of our time in Utah and Colorado with you soon!

Bordercrossing

Crossing a border is always very special. We thought a lot about crossing the border from the US into Mexico and planned wel. The closer we got to the border the more warnings we got. Policecars and people we encountered on the road stopped to check on us regularly. More and more people told us stories about drug problems, gangs fighting each other, shootings and crazy police chases. That made us feel insecure and sometimes indesicive in which road and bordercrossing we should take. Finally we decided that we should be careful (not cycling when it is dark, locking our bikes well, keeping an eye on our belongings, taking hotels near the border) but that we should listen to our sense and feelings. We have not had a single dangerous or unpleasant encounter. On the contrary, everyone has been extremely friendly and helpful.

Bordercrossing in Laredo. On the left: everyone who wants to enter the US. On the right: everyone who wants to enter Mexico.

On our first day cycling in Mexico the Policía Federal found us somewhere on the road. They felt responsible for our safety and insisted to escort us until Saltillo. From that moment on a policecar drove behind us for the next 130km. They encouraged us through their speaker when going uphill. “Go Peter go! Go Petra go!” We felt like a professional Tour de France cycling team.

After Saltillo we went on smaller and quieter roads into the mountains. We felt relieved. Not only were we able to wild camp again but cars drove much slower and there was way less noise than on the big highways. For me hearing the noise of passing cars all day long is one of the most unpleasant things on tour. I often try to listen to music which works a little bit but it can also be unsafe because you don’t always hear the traffic coming.

Mexico is magical. Last year, when we traveled in the South, we loved this country a lot. And it is the same now with the North. People are extremely friendly and curious, the food is nice and cheap, the roads are good, car drivers treat us respectful, the climate is pleasant and the landscapes are beautiful. We enjoy Mexico and highly recommend it for cycletouring and traveling as a family.

We are now in Tula, Tamaulipas. Everyday we get closer to Mexico City. As soon as we arrive there we reach a milestone: We will reconnect the route we did in the South of North America with the part we did in the North. I dare to say that we will have crossed North America by bike as a family.

Reaching a milestone goes together with thinking a lot about which step to take next. Do we continue on and go to South America? Do we go home and see our families again? What do we want to do in the future? … to be continued …

Tribute to friendship

In Santa Fe (New Mexico) a friend told us that it is important for her to start a new year with a special activity. It doesn’t matter which activity as long as it is something she enjoys and/or wishes for that year. On 1st of January we did a day trip on our bikes with an old friend and a new friend. Cycling is important to us. Friends are important to us.

On 30th of December one of my oldest and best friends Arnold flew from the Netherlands to New Mexico and joined us for three weeks. We cycled with him from Santa Fe (New Mexico) to El Paso (Texas).

I know Arnold since almost 15 years. We met during our studies at the students cycling club in Utrecht. He is still cycling a lot, especially on the road bike. Winter in the Netherlands is not so much fun. It is gray, rainy and there is hardly any sun. Arnold is working a lot and it seemed a good idea to him to escape this somberness for a couple of weeks. I promised him to help him organise everything. He needed to book his flight, buy camping gear and a bike. Taking a bike on the airplane is possible of course. We have already done that many times before. But it is annoying to take the bike apart, pack it in a huge box, transport that box to the Airport and check it in. Reverse that process when you arrive at your destination. Instead we decided to buy a second hand bike in Santa Fe. Peter and I planned to arrive two weeks earlier in Santa Fe than Arnold. We searched the web and went to different bike shops. Finally we found an almost new Raleigh for $120 which we trusted to be strong enough to master the 350 miles (500 km) to El Paso. Arnold was satisfied with our choice and we had no problems with the bike except one flat tire and a broken screw on the rack which we easily replaced.

Though we have a lot of encounters with different people and make new friends on the road it is special to spend time with an old friend. We didn’t only talk about the past and common friends but created new common experiences and memories.

Arnold is used to work in an office 60 hours a week. Of course cycle touring is something  totally different. Pitching your tent everyday, cold nights, strong winds, being able to buy food only every couple of days, wearing the same clothes without washing them for several days/weeks and not having a shower everyday is something you have to get used to. But Arnold is healthy and strong and he enjoys those little challenges. I don’t have a picture of how dirty Arnold was after seven days on the road and in the tent, but I have one of Ben and Esmé 🙂

It is only sand but it sticks to your skin from all the sweat and sunscreen. Furthermore the sand is all over: in your tent, sleeping bag, pockets, pants and socks. Especially if the wind is blowing very strongly, which happened several times on that route. It is also a challenge to cook and eat without sand blowing into your food.

The highlight of our three weeks together with Arnold were definitely the white sand dunes composed of gypsum crystals in White Sands National Monument, New Mexico.

Beforehand we knew that it is possible to backcountry camp in the dunes. We arrived around 4 pm at the visitor center where we had to get a permit. Then we cycled another 6 miles (10 km) to the parking lot where we left our bikes. We walked for 1 mile (1.5 km) to our camping spot. When we started walking and carrying our panniers (we walked back and forth because we couldn’t carry all the panniers in one time) it got dark already. There was a lot of wind on that day and the sand was flying through the air. The kids were wearing sunglasses to keep the sand out of their eyes. As soon as you enter the dunes it is like a moon landscape and difficult to orientate in the dark. There were little signs that reflected the light of our headlights, that was how we knew where to go. We stayed together and Peter and I were in a good mood. The kids are always doing great when we are in difficult situations. Arnold was ok but it was definitely not his happiest moment. He must have been worried about finding our campsite. I trust Peter. He is a very good navigator and guide and he would let me know if we were in danger. After getting lost two or three times we found our campsite.

Ben and Esmé always play and are in a good mood, no matter how late it is.

Due to the wind it was difficult to pitch the tent. The sand was so soft that the tent pegs kept coming out all the time. With a lot of effort Arnold and I were able to pitch our two tents. Work that normally takes us 15 minutes took us about one hour. That evening was hard, but we were rewarded the next day by beautiful weather and stunning scenery.

We easily made it to El Paso on time.

We had a great time with our friend but it was hard to say goodbye for me. It meant a lot to me that Arnold joined us. Now he knows how my daily life looks like, how great and how hard it can be.

El Paso: On the other side of this fence is Mexico. Border patrol is everywhere here.

Arnold flew back to the Netherlands and we continued into Texas.

We crossed the Chihuahuan Desert. Our tires are a little bit old already and five out of seven tires had punctures due to thorns and thin metal wires. Our record were five punctures on two different tires in one day.

We called this a “killer thorn”. It took me half an hour to make sure no thorns, which could damage our sleeping mattresses, are underneath the tent.

For the last two weeks we stayed with friends in Victoria, Texas. We organized new tires, shoes, clothes and rain gear. From experience we know that it is difficult to find good outdoor clothes and equipment in Mexico. Our friends pamper us and the children with good food, movies, games, a visit to the zoo and a lot more. I think, that we gained several kilos of weight in the last couple of weeks. This spoiling will probably be the last one in a long time. The USA is definitely the most generous country we have visited so far.

One year on the road

We left Cancun, Mexico, by bike on 12th of December 2016. We are on the road already since one year! To celebrate our anniversary we created this 12 minute slideshow which we want to share with you. Enjoy!

Impressions from our first year on the road. We started our cycle tour on 7th of December 2016 in Cancun, Mexico. We stayed five months in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala and then flew to Canada where we stayed for four months. After Canada we entered the USA and cycled through Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah. Our adventure is not over yet! To be continued … Adventure cycle touring with two small children – http://www.thecyclingfamily.com Music: Eddie Vedder "Rise"; Hang Massive "Once Again"; Eddie Vedder "Society"

 

Taking time

It is a long time ago that we wrote our last blogpost. Sorry for that. We didn’t take time to write. We took time to enjoy the desert in Wyoming, Colorado and Utah.







The landscape, especially the colours and shapes, we saw in the last weeks were amazing. We loved it so much that we took the longest break in the past year. We stayed 2 1/2 weeks in Moab, where we stayed with several new friends that felt like family. 


We experienced a lot of generosity and hospitality. Not only in Moab but all along our route: in Savery, Grand Junction, Telluride, Dolores, Durango, Oxford, Dulce and Abiquiu. In total we have been helped and invited about 40 nights in the last two months, which is amazing and very often has helped us a lot. The days are short and as soon as the sun is setting it gets very cold. We have had some snow on the tent but campfires and hot tubs keep us warm.


We are still doing fine and managing well. All the other cyclists we follow on social media are already further south and in warmer weather.

It was also time to say goodbye to our friends Sjoerd, Hanneke and their son Ramses. They are heading towards California now and we continued into New Mexico.


Ben and Esmé are doing really well in this circumstances. They are wearing many layers of clothes every day but are still playing cheerfully and not getting grumpy at all.


We are now in Abiquiu and will continue to San Cristobal tomorrow. We will stay there and near Santa Fe for the next couple of weeks, catching up with old friends and giving our presentation about cycle touring again. We are on the road now for one year and it is time to share our experiences with those who are interested.