Celebrate Travel: A Two Wheel Salute to National Bike Month
Did you know that May is National Bike Month? With the weather starting to get a little better here in the northern hemisphere, what better way to celebrate this outdoor activity than with a few tales that pay homage to all things with 2 wheels.
When was the last time you hopped on a bicycle? This morning? Yesterday? A year ago? Ten years ago? Let’s just say before last October it had been quite a while since I hopped on any two-wheeled form of transportation. Oh sure I had dreamt of renting Vespas in Rome before we had the kids. Unfortunately my husband is not quite the daredevil I am (at least in my own head), so we skipped a zippy, death-defying ride through the Eternal City.
Almost 5 years later I would once again find myself in Italy, this time with my two small boys, and a friend determined to get me on 2 wheels. No scooters for us. We were going old school. Bicycles with bells, baskets, and kiddie seats in the back (and even front in her case). I was dubious at first, but after one spin around town without having to put anyone in car seats, searching for parking, or cries of “are we there yet” I was hooked.
Every day we would hop on our bikes to explore another part of the historic town of Ferrara in the Emilia-Romagna. Dek loved it; Ty tolerated it. We only had one minor incident the whole week.
I decided to use my friend’s husband’s bike to go to the market. He had the better kid’s seat on the back of his bike and his breaks didn’t squeak like the bike I had been using. The trouble was, her husband was a bit taller than me, and it was a man’s bike. This meant there was a large bar just below the seat that I had to get my leg over. We got to the market just fine. I was zipping along, taking on hills, and waving hello to the locals. Once we were at the market I easily walked the bike around, even with Dek on back. And then I tried to get remount. Apparently my legs were not up for the job.
I forgot I had gotten on the darn thing using the curb at my friend’s house. Two attempts and I thought I had it. Nope. The bike went crashing down to the ground with Dek right along with it. Poor kid had not idea what was happening or why he was on the ground. Never have I been so happy that I make my kids wear bike helmets. I was starting to think he needed elbow and kneepads if he was going to let me drive much longer. Thankfully he was OK. A little shaken up and confused, but nothing a little promise of gelato didn’t fix (I pulled that one out a lot in Italy.)
I’m not the only one who got hooked on bike travel after I had kids. Mara of Mother of all Trips found that exploring cities by bike with her kids offered a whole new way to see even places they had visited before. Her most recent biking adventure found her and her family following the trail of the Tour de France right into the Place de la Concorde in Paris.
Like my friend in Italy, Farrah from The Three Under along with her US expat family of 5 now living in the Netherlands traded in their minivan for a cargo bike. That’s when they knew they had switched over to the bike culture of their new country. Dad rides to work and mom totes the 2-year-old twins and their 4-year-old brother around Oisterwijk daily just like everyone else.
Some families are just aching to jump into a biking lifestyle. Having lived in an RV, in the Ecuadorian jungles with a tribe of indigenous Indians, and even on a pier with no water or electricity with a hole in the plank for a toilet on an island off of Southern Cambodia, Gabi of The Nomadic Family is ready for biking through Europe for a year with her kids. It terrifies and excites her, but sometimes those really are the best plans.
Nancy of Family on Bikes is well-known as a champion of not letting fear hold you back. She says, “Given the culture of fear we live with in the USA, one might think that traveling around America on bicycles would be a recipe for disaster. Doing it with kids would be sheer folly. Thankfully, by cycling around America, we’ve seen a different side of America – the side not portrayed on the nightly news. We’ve seen the good people in our great country – over and over and over again.” Nancy’s “road angels” pop up again and again in her books, but I will never forget when her family was rescued from what might have been a miserable night.
Lew from Planet Lew also experienced the beauty one country can offer up as she cycled 500kms in 5 days through Vietnam and raised $5,000 for CARE Vietnam. As one of her first trips out of Australia (her homeland), this bike ride was not only a physical challenge, but also a cultural challenge. She loved every minute (ok, maybe not cycling up a 15% incline or when she got a belly bug), and it really set the scene for her future exploration of the world.
But you really don’t have to head out of the country to experience how a bicycle can open your eyes to the world around you. Debbie from Jersey Kids visited the sight where Washington’s troops crossed the Delaware on Christmas 1776 en route to surprise Hessian soldiers in Trenton, a key battle in the Revolutionary war. They saw where he ate, and even watch a historic reenactment of the crossing at this beautiful Washington Crossing State Park in Pennsylvania. The best way to get there was a scenic bike ride along the Delaware and Raritan Canal in either New Jersey or Pennsylvania. They figured why not!
For those adrenaline junkie who want to off road it a bit more, Kara of The Vacation Gals has got a surprise for you. Scratch that. Her kids will shock you. She loved introducing her children to real, off-road mountain biking in Moab a few years ago. They surprised her with their perseverance over the rough trail. She was actually blown away by how well they did on the slick sandstone, squirrely gravel and deep sand!
And let us never forget that biking should be just as much for mom and dad as it is for the kids. Wine-tasting is one of those leisure activities that many people sacrifice at the altar of Disney once they have children. It doesn’t have to be so. With her two very active boys Michelle of Wandermom found that if you combine wine-tasting with say, a picnic and an active day out it can be fun for all the family. Her solution has been wine-tasting on bikes which they’ve done with their children regularly since they were very little.
Do you have a favorite memory while riding a bike? Leave your story in the comments below.