In 2001, Shane and I drove to Port Angeles, Washington left our car in a parking lot for 10 days and rode our bikes 500 miles on Vancouver Island from Victoria  to Courtenay, camping along the way.

We loved that so much that in 2002, we drove back to Port Angeles, Washington, left our car in an RV storage lot for 6 weeks, and rode our bikes 1000 miles.  This time we rode the entire length of Vancouver Island, again camping along the way. 

Included on this stretch of our ride was a 175 mile section of road we nicknamed the “Highway of Death” (Campbell river to Port Hardy). From Port Hardy, we took a ferry up to Queen Charlotte Island and rode the length of the northern island.

 From there we took the “poor man's cruise” through the
breathtaking Inside Passage up to Skagway, Alaska. Then we rode all the way back to our car. (We did end up renting a van for the “Highway of Death” section.)  Even back then we had enough sense not to ride that section again!

During a backpacking trip a few years ago, Shane and I decided to write a list of our 10 favorite trips EVER!!! We wrote them in secret and then compared notes. We had 7 of the same trips (and believe me, we had lots of choices!) But, our 6 week bike trip was #1 for me and #2 for Shane. For me, it was the first time in my life that I felt a real appreciation for what my body was capable of doing. I had gotten to ALASKA on a BIKE!!!  That trip healed body image issues I had had for a long time.

For years, I wanted to do another bike trip, but then we had babies and were hardly going anywhere. By 2010, our girls were big enough that I could start camping again, but bike trips were out of the question. That didnt stop me from talking about it all the time.
I would say, “When the girls are old enough we are going on a bike trip!” or “Maybe I'll go on a bike trip by myself.” I think this is why I became so passionate about biking. I bike everywhere.....the girls and I probably bike about 800 miles a year.

This summer, we were supposed to do a big car camping trip out to Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Oregon. The problem is that our car is just not able to go where we want to go (hence, the need for a car more suited for us). I brought up the idea to Shane of doing a bike tour with the girls ( I dont give up easily!) – Alli on her own bike and Jill on a trail a bike. Shane was into the idea and when we asked the girls if they would like that, they were WAY excited. 

Fast forward to Spring Break, when we did a trial run on Bizz Johnson. If you did not read those posts you can click here:

What did we learn from that trip???

Alli COULD NOT be on her own bike. While she is capable of doing a small trip, long term and long distance would be difficult.

We COULD NOT use the current trail a bike that we had – an Adams. It was so wobbly and very hard for Shane to control.

Pile of stuff we WILL NOT be bringing on our trip!
When we got back we went through every single item and found 15 POUNDS of gear that we would not bring on a long bike trip. Books, the hammock, 

And of course we learned that no matter what, a bike trip was how we wanted to spend our summer.

So the research started. The BurleyPiccolo was what I found to be the best trail a bike for what we wanted to do. High weight limit – absolutely no wobble – sturdy and strong rack – weighed less. They are $400, so I looked on craigslist and found 2 of them $180 total (paid for with our paypal money – remember we are saving for a used car).  We had to drive to Sacramento and Redding, but it was WELL worth it.

There are some great rails to trails, but none of them are very long. The Bizz Johnson is the longest in California. There are lots in other states, but in Canada there is a trail that runs from Coast to Coast! We wanted to do the section in British Columbia from Victoria on Vancouver Island to Nelson on the mainland, located above Idaho. Bruce and Sue were willing to drop us off in June in Port Angeles and pick us in August in Nelson. We were SET! We ordered the book, got the gear we needed and started counting down the days.  We needed one more test ride with the new trail a bikes and loaded with gear.

One Wednesday in early May, Shane called me from school and said that Lassen was having their Car Free Weekend. He asked, “Let's drive up on Friday and bike to the summit as a trial run!” Two days to prepare, but we did it! We had been talking about doing this ever since moving to Chico, only took 15 years to actually do it!

Friday night we drove up after school, got to the parking lot of the visitor center at about 5:30pm. Loaded up the bikes and started riding. Let's just say – It was TOUGH!!! Our average speed was about 3.5 miles per hour. That is crazy slow.

But Shane and I are pulling not only our kids up this mountain, but all of our camping gear. We rode exactly half way (3.5 miles) that night in 50 minutes of pedaling time, 2.5 hours total time. Exhausted and hungry and cold, we set up camp on some snow. We crawled into bed at 9:30 and all fell instantly to sleep.

In the morning we got up and as we were getting ready to head up this massive, steep and windy hill, a couple from France stopped to chat with us. They were on a long trip that started in Seattle, went to San Francisco and now they were headed back to Seattle. I remember feeling GIDDY as we talked to them thinking – “In one month that is going to be US, out on the road, with just the power of our bodies to get us from one side of Canada to the other.” I couldn't wait!
Shane and Alli WAY down there at the bottom of the picture

Once more we started up toward the summit. We had another 3.5 miles to go. As we rode, there were lots of road cyclist FLYING past us coming downhill. They always passed us with a cheer of some sort – Awesome Family!!! – Way to go Mom and Dad!! – You guys ROCK!! – Lucky kids!! – So nice to see a family outdoors together! – Keep it up!

The girls love this kind of attention and we appreciate it too. It is nice to hear encouragement for what we love to do. It feels good to get kudos for doing what we love instead of doing what is “normal” or “expected”. I will admit, it also helped keep my legs pumping up this horribly steep mountain. Somewhere along the way a ranger stopped to talk to us and take our picture. We were the only family we saw out there the whole weekend.

We reached the summit after 60 minutes of pedal time – 3 hours total – this section was WAY more steep, and we were totally spent! Shane and I were each pulling about 150# up the mountain, not including our own weight. There was a lot of shouting for joy when we finally reached the summit.

Now, it is true that on the other side of the summit we could ride for as fast and as long as we wanted, BUT we would have to ride BACK UP in the morning. We decided to go 1 – 1.5 miles downhill and find somewhere to camp. This took 6 minutes! Is all the uphill worth the downhill? 100% YES! Is this the girls playing in the snow without jackets and without shoes? 100% YES!

Now, the next day we had to ride 8.5 miles back to the car, the first 1.5 miles being uphill – but then the icing on the cake – 7 miles of nothing but downhill. It was so amazing and fun. We never had to pedal. It was 26 minutes of a joy ride down the side of Lassen – no cars – just us and the wind in our ears. (I think I vaguely remember that I could not feel my feet because they were frozen, but WHO CARES!!!! 26 minutes of a joy ride is worth it!)

This trip to Lassen was our last trial run before Canada. All the problems needed worked out now before we left for 7 weeks. What we found out was that we are READY! The Piccolo is a perfect trail a bike for us, we could pack our 4 person tent, we can survive without cooking (we only used our stove to make tea), and most important – if there was a mountain that needed climbed, we would be able to do it. We headed into the end of May with happiness in our hearts for what would be sure to be one of our favorite family trips ever.

UH -OH!!!!!

Shane and I kept procrastinating the planning of our trip. We had the TransCanada Trail book, we had learned about Warm Showers (a website designed to connect cyclist with people willing to host them in their house or in their yard with a tent), we just had not sat down to write out how EXACTLY we were going to get to Nelson in 7 weeks. I finally started 3 days before Shane's camping trip with his friends.

Early on, I found out that the stretch of trail beyond Hope, BC was kind of a mess. There was almost no way around it except to ride the highway. Now, when I think back to the highway of death from 2002, I know FOR SURE that we are not going to ride on highways with the girls. I start researching everything that would help us get around this section– renting a van, renting a U-haul, finding a shuttle service – it is all over $500. By this time Shane is gone, off to the Eastern Sierras doing this:

I realize I must make an executive decision. My decision – we turn around in Chilliwack – nothing, and I mean NOTHING – is worth endangering our children. Some of you may be surprised to realize that we actually do have limits to what we will do! I was 2 weeks into planning and our whole trip had to change. I had a big job to do. I had to plan 5 more weeks and make sure that it was good since Shane would come home and learn that we were not doing AT ALL what we set out to do.

We have been to the sunshine coast (west coast of mainland, BC) many times. I knew the it would be awesome, but I wasnt sure about the safety of cycling it, or if there are backroads to get off the highway. With some research I found some awesome websites.

CRAZY GUY ON A BIKE – an UNBELIEVEABLE collection of cyclists journals about their trips. I found a lot of info here on the safety/danger of different areas

CYCLING THE SUNSHINE COAST – One woman's tour of the island with mileage and where they stopped

I was sold. This could for sure be done. It would take us one week to get back to Vancouver, then one week to cycle to Powell River at the top of the Sunshine Coast. That left 3 weeks to plan. The obvious next step is a ferry over to Courtenay on Vancouver Island which is a place we LOVE!!!! So another week to cycle down to Sidney.

2 years ago we went to the San Juan Islands and fell in love with Lopez Island. It is mostly flat with some rolling hills, people are SO friendly and it is a really relaxing atmosphere. So from Sidney, BC we could take a ferry over to Friday Harbor in the San Juans....then Lopez.....then Orcas. BOOM – 7 weeks – 50 days – planned! Well, almost....

I will not have any cell service in BC so I needed to write down the address of EVERY SINGLE PLACE we are going to stay. Then I had to write the directions we would need for every day to get from one place to another. I wont have MAPS on my phone – or a GPS unit – every night I will copy the directions from my notebook, onto a 5 x 7 index card and fasten it to my steering wheel so we know where we are going.

This was a huge ordeal in itself. Google Maps for Bicycles is a GREAT resource, but a lot of the GO TO directions are for taking the highways, which I am not willing to ride with the girls. I had to manually re-route each and every day, every single section of our ride for 50 days, to keep us off the highway. 

This also resulted in LOTS MORE MILES to ride. Taking back roads will be safer, but we will be riding a lot more, too. One day the original route was 30 miles, but after I adjusted the route to get off Highway 1, we have to ride 38 miles! YIKES! Total calculated(estimated) miles 720. Total hours on the bike 90 (so this will probably be closer to 200 hours for us!)

Our Packing List
Passports are packed, credit card and banks are notified that we are leaving the country, bike tour list is out and highlighted. We are chomping at the bit!! It feels good to be all planned, packed and ready to go.

We have a few more days of enjoying our beloved Olympia family. We get to spend Father's Day with Shane's dad for the first time in forever, then Monday at 12:45 we leave Port Angeles with only our bikes and the power of our own bodies for the adventure of a lifetime.

Click below to follow our journey....

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