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an astonishing family bike tour

On Monday morning, I ride out of Seattle, thankfully with considerably less trouble than I had riding into the city, to catch another ferry, this time from Edmonds to Kingston on the Washington Peninsula.

On the peninsula, the small towns I pass through are reminiscent of scenes from Twin Peaks and I find it slightly disturbing. I keep expecting to see odd characters walking down the sidewalks, to glimpse strange happenings out of the corner of my eyes or to come across stray body parts lying on the green lawns. Tom had mentioned that David Lynch was something of a local and it seems to fit although I know nothing of the details.

Lynchville.

Lynchville.

Creepy.

Creepy.

However, nothing of note occurs until late in the afternoon when I see strange forms, in the distance, struggling up a long hill. There is a person pushing an obviously heavy load and I can see a smaller figure dancing alongside. I overtake them as they stop at the crest of the hill to rest. It is a woman, with her daughter – the woman’s bike has a child’s third wheel attached and she is towing a heavily laden trailer behind that. The trailer is jam packed with gear and adorned with car wheel hub caps. I am almost speechless.

“Wow!” is all I can think to say.

“Where you just behind me before?” the woman inquires, “On the big hill?”

“No.” I reply.

“That’s odd” she says, “My husband said he saw a cyclist just behind me when we were coming down that big hill but I never saw them pass me.”

“Hmmmmm.” I say. The Lynchian factor, perhaps.

She informs me that her husband is ahead of her and I should tell him that she is coming, so I continue on my way. I soon come across a man on a Surly Big Dummy long wheel base bike, loaded down with an insane amount of luggage, towing a trailer with two young children sleeping in it.

The man asks me if I have seen his wife and, as I am telling him she should be here soon, the woman and her daughter comes into sight over the hill and pull up beside us. We discuss camp plans and food. We are all hungry and tired. I am utterly fascinated by this family and so I ride with them, keeping their pace. We stop at a grocery store and buy immediately edible junk food and sit outside on the pavement eating – an instant gypsy encampment.

They have a map of the peninsula they picked up from an information centre that details local bike routes and they tell me there is a 30 mile cycle route to Port Townsend which will get us off the highway. I am relieved because the traffic on 101 is fast and heavy.

Many US state and county parks have hiker biker sites, for campers who eschew motorised transport, that are often very cheap. There is a State park nearby and so we decide to check it out. After a short ride on the cycle path we arrive at the park to find two of the sites are already occupied by solo cyclists and we discover that the sites are a hefty fifteen dollars each. I had already agreed that I would share a site with the family to reduce the cost but we strike up conversation with Astrid, an English woman who has been on the road for two years on a round-the-world tour, and she agrees to let us share her site. A tent city springs up.

Fully loaded!

Fully loaded!

Nothing by halves - look at the size of that tent!

Nothing by halves - look at the size of that tent!

Joni and Daeli’s children are Noiel, a six-year-old girl, Elan, a three-year-old boy, and Lovam, an eleven-month-old baby boy. Until recently they have all been living on a thirty foot boat in Panama but it became too crowded for all five of them so they have decided to hit the road on bicycles instead. Joni is American and Daeli is French. Noiel is being home-schooled while they travel, in French, by her father. Elan, the middle child, has evident special needs, with extremely limited mobility and communication skills.

Family life.

Family life.

Noiel playing.

Noiel playing.

A toy for the children.

A toy for the children.

The amount of stuff these people are carrying around on their bikes is astounding. They have a range of gifts that have been given to them recently by well-meaning family members who clearly have no idea whatsoever of what travelling on a bicycle involves. They also seem to have taken everything they possessed on the boat with them. They are carrying things as diverse and superfluous as full size mosquito nets and safety flares, a two way radio set as well as countless toys and books for the children, dress-up clothes… the list is endless. I suddenly feel like an ultra-lightweighter.

{ 1 } Comments

  1. Babs | October 10, 2009 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    I am in awe of this family!!
    Babs

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