I have been following a lot of travel blogs during the past couple of years. One of my favorites is Family on bikes, an honest account of following your dreams and tackling your fears. When Nancy offered me a chance to have a sneak peak at her new book I was thrilled. I was so excited to read it but even more than that I was honored to help promote it in a book review on my own site here.
The Vogel family has been traveling for quite some time now. Nancy and John met while trying to find a partner to bike through India with. They were strangers who set out on adventure together. Nancy admits that it wasn't a perfect match in the beginning but they began to rely on and trust one another and eventually fell in love. They have lived in numerous countries and visited even more.
Twenty Miles Per Cookie is a memoir that chronicles the first long haul bike trip taken with their boys, 8 at the time. After becoming disillusioned once again with the "American dream", they hatched a plan that would launch them into a 1 year bike trip through deserts, up and down mountains, battling headwinds, along the Pacific coastline, and through Mexico. Challenge after challenge presents itself and Nancy candidly explains how they got through it all together, the only way it could work!
She also, through her writing, challenges us to see the world for the good in it. By explaining how many times they were saved by numerous "road angels", you feel a renewed sense of the good in people. How inspirational in this day and age when we are constantly barraged with warnings around every corner to be cautious amongst strangers. The lessons the family learn along the way are revealed beautifully!
Twenty Miles Per Cookie is also a wonderful narrative of a family that can tackle anything. It is thought provoking, honest and raw, and mostly an inspiration! It is a hopeful and positive book but at the same time Nancy also eloquently explains the difficult times with an honesty few of us share with the masses. It is told from Nancy's perspective, with snippets of the children's perspective told through letters they wrote to their grandmother. Nancy also lets the reader in on another special relationship, that which she has with her mother. She writes to her, "I can reach for the moon – and if, for some reason, I fail to get there, I’ll simply land among the stars. And for that I’ll always thank you." How beautiful!
After reading the book I asked Nancy a few questions about their trip. I think you'll be inspired just by reading the answers below! I know it will leave you wanting more...
How long have you been cycling? How about your husband?
Nancy: "I discovered the bike in high school and fell in love with the freedom. While my classmates rode the bus to school, I jumped on my bike and enjoyed the fresh air!"
"I didn't get in to bike touring until quite a few years later. I took my first bike tour in the summer of 1988 from Norfolk, Virginia to New Orleans."
"John figured out the bike touring stuff WAY before I did! His first bike tour was in 1981 when he cycled from Albuquerque to Denver."
Have the kids been cycling since they were small? How did you cultivate a love of biking?
Nancy: "They have been cycling since there were little, but not as much as many other families. Because we lived in Ethiopia when they were little, we only cycled when we came back to the USA for the summer. We started out with them on trail-a-bikes, then graduated to tandems, then the triple, and finally on their own bikes."
"As for the love of biking, I think kids tend to enjoy what their parents are excited about. Our family bike trips were always the highlight of our days and John and I loved them - so the kids got excited about them too."
How long did you save for this trip? I know you camped a lot but ow did you maintain your home and travel without working all along?
Nancy: "Ummm... we didn't. That being said, we always saved "for retirement" and we used some of that money to fund our bike trip. So maybe I should say we saved 19 years??"
What was the reaction of your family and friends?
Nancy: "Our families didn't blink an eye - they're used to us coming up with some cockananny idea and then doing it. We had previously spent a year cycling Pakistan, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. We had packed up and moved to Egypt to teach. Our sons were born while we lived in Ethiopia. In other words, doing something like this was more or less expected."
You endured heat, cold, sandstorms, mud, rain...what was the most challenging aspect of this trip for you personally?
Nancy: "From a cycling perspective, headwinds are always the most difficult. There is no way to avoid them, but you also know you'll never beat them. When climbing a hill, you know you'll get to the top someday. Hot weather will cool down. Cold temps will warm up. But headwinds never go away. It like battling an unbeatable foe."
"But way harder than the headwinds was the mental block of feeling like I was inadequate. I wasn't strong enough, I wasn't hardy enough, blah, blah, blah. I overcame that once we reached the Pacific Ocean - if I could make it across Oregon, then I was good to go!"
How did this trip strengthen your marriage?
Nancy: "I think any shared experience with your spouse will strengthen a relationship. We have so many memories that we've created together that I can't imagine going on alone. There have been times when I've been ready to march to the divorce office but then I think, "But wait a minute - if we could get through THAT together, then we can get through THIS together."
What ways did this trip prepare you all for the longer journey from Alaska to Argentina?
(John, Nancy and their 2 boys have since rode their bikes from Alaska to Argentina)
Nancy: "Completely. Our Alaska - Argentina trip simply would not have happened without this one. To begin with, we never would have even thought of the idea without meeting people along the Pacific coast who were on their way to Argentina."
"Beyond that, our journey around the USA and Mexico taught us a LOT about bike touring with kids. We learned what kind of pace we could maintain, how much and what kind of food we needed, how to deal with rain/snow/heat/cold. It was on this trip around the USA and Mexico that we worked out all the kinks and figured it all out so we felt prepared to cycle from Alaska to Argentina. And trust me - we had a LOT to figure out!"
What kept you from quitting? Especially during the beginning or when your mom was so sick?
Nancy: "I honestly don't know. I think part of it was not wanting to accept defeat. If we turned around and went back home, we would be failing in many ways - although I always maintained that we had learned so much that we could call off the trip even before we left the driveway and we wouldn't have lost."
"Ultimately, I think what kept me going was knowing that we would look back on our journey with fond memories. Even though I was exhausted or hungry, I knew the time together as a family was a special gift and one I knew I wouldn't regret."
What was the most important thing you learned on this trip? What about your boys, what did they take away from it all?
Nancy: "I think we all took away a feeling of invincibility. If we could ride our bikes across the USA, then we could do anything."
As a mom traveling with my kids, I often wonder what they will think a few years from now. How do the boys view their travel lifestyle thus far?
Nancy: "My boys have grown up traveling; they don't know anything else. Although they do understand, on one level, just how extraordinary their experiences are, they don't feel it. To them, traveling thousands of miles on bikes is normal and they don't understand why people make such a fuss about it. Very few of their friends even know they've done what they've done."
Logistically I must know how did you keep up with laundry? As someone always consumed with laundry (3 boys) I just have to know:)
Nancy: "Keeping up with laundry in the USA was EASY! Every little town has a laundromat, so we just pulled up to one and washed clothes. It wasn't unusual for the boys to go into the restroom at the laundromat to put on their swimsuits as they had no other clean clothes to put on."
"Keeping up with laundry while we cycled from Alaska to Argentina was a nightmare including many hours sitting on the shower floor with a pile of dirty clothes, but I'll leave that one for the next book!"
What do you hope your readers will take away from this book?
Nancy: "I hope people take away the idea that they can do anything. If I, a normal wife, teacher, and mother to twin boys can ride my bike across the USA, then they can do it too. And if they can ride their bike across the USA, then they can do anything. They are limited only by their imagination."
What would you say to someone that wants to do what you have done but is fearful?
"Fearful of what?
Of people? There's no need - this world is filled with wonder
Of cars? Choose roads without much traffic and cycle predictably so the car drivers know what to expect from you.
Of animals? They're more afraid of you than you are of them.
Of failing? What is failing - never setting out in order to "be safe" or at least trying and giving it your best?
Of the unknown? The unknown is scary, but the only way you'll know is to go."
If you are a traveler, a biker, or a dreamer then you need to read this book. It will stay with you and inspire you to tackle your greatest fears and to follow your dreams no matter what the challenge. To purchase Twenty Miles Per Cookie in book or kindle form, please visit Nancy's site. Aside from purchasing the book be sure to follow their blog to keep up with their travels and get inspired!