Bicycle Wonders

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We were sitting in our “living room” watching the sun set over the Pacific discussing options for dinner, Sean noticed three bike campers looking for a spot to set up. We see people like this stop through pretty often since the campground we’re staying at is right on the coastal bike path with campsites specifically for bike campers. Sean stared at them…I watched his eyes glaze over as he drifted off into a daydream of endless bicycle expeditions across the country with Zion in a children’s tow behind cart and Frank in my non existent basket just like Toto in the Wizard of Oz.

“Should I go see if they need help?” Sean asked me.

I thought to myself, why would they need help? The cyclists are usually pretty self sufficient…rarely calling on the Camp Hosts for assistance. Before I could respond Sean was outside, camera in hand, talking with his new friends and future travel partners. I stayed inside, warm and cozy, knowing Sean would bring back tons of useful information.

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After, what felt like hours, Sean reappeared. “They’re going to let me photograph them again in the morning! We just have to get up early, before they leave.” In his excitement he paused and shot a piercing glance at me knowing I battle with early mornings.

During the first conversation Sean had with the three nomadic foreigners, he became infatuated. Paul and Froukje, from the Netherlands, had been on the road for 8 months, currently heading north to Portland, Oregon, before returning home. And with them was Winfried, a young man from Germany that just began his journey in Los Angeles.  The couple shared stories and photos with him exclaiming, “We’re not special, we’re just regular people, there are real professionals out there!”, and talked about how they just found Winfried along the way and welcomed him to camp with them, all the while urging Sean to take Paul’s bike for a test ride. By the end of their conversation Sean was ready to sell our trailer with everything in it and start bike camping the world.

I was still only 75% on board, the idea of sharing the road with careless drivers just didn’t settle well with me, so I began to imagine every path we might travel as an amazing trail just for bicyclists, smooth, even and flat. As I fell asleep with thoughts of saddle bags, that I would apparently need to be purchasing in the near future, and how winded I get after riding only 4 miles (which is the furthest I’ve ever ridden), I was pedaling my way around the world. Frank, sitting tall in his basket, both of us easily breathing the fresh air with Sean and Zion in the lead, not a care in the world.

6:30am, I was wide awake and ready to go talk to these interesting creatures, but no one else was, not Sean, not even Frank (the only morning-loving animal in our home)… I was pretty sure our persons of interest were still cozy in their tents too. I tossed and turned, I never wake up that early, my brain was full of questions. I finally began to drift back to sleep and Sean leapt out of bed,

“Let’s go! I want you to meet them, let’s go!” and he was off. I slowly gathered myself, trying to recall the multitude of questions that had been spinning in my brain only hours earlier.

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Still half asleep, I stumbled down the trailer stairs to find a very awake and energetic Paul appearing to be having a great time as he was building a fire and talking with Sean about their adventures. Froukje explained that building fires was one of the highlights about traveling here since it is not accessible to them in the Netherlands. Froukje, a nurse for 29 years, shared how they ended up on the road with me. She and Paul had encountered a string of stressful life happenings, so one day, she decided to go on a bicycle trip for a year and her invitation for Paul to tag along included some type of, ‘I’m going with or without you’ phrase. I could’ve been wrong but she seemed a bit surprised he agreed to join. With at least one marathon under her belt, Froukje keeps herself active while Paul casually mentioned that he might do a little running, but together they denied training for this 12 month excursion. Paul also pointed out that when his friends found out what they were planning, they expressed a bit of concern for him, providing reminders that he would be required to give up some comforts of daily living. They both seemed, not only incredibly comfortable, but full of joy, laughter and warmth as well, humbly insisting they still didn’t know anything about bike camping.

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While graciously answering all of our questions they prepared for their long day ahead. “You’re no longer a threat to people when you’re riding a bike”, Froukje explained as we discussed foreign travel. This got our attention, we’ve always wanted to travel through Europe, but we were never quite set on how. Would we backpack? Depend on public transit? Rent a car? Bicycle tour! At that moment of re-discovery we looked down to see a map of North America with a line traveling from the middle of Canada, south through multiples states, curving into the bottom California. Froukje pointed to it, showing me how far they’ve already traveled. I asked if there was anything missing they felt like they should have brought with them, hoping to learn from their mistakes. They both giggled and described a few of the unneeded items they had to get rid of.

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“I have only had 5 scary moments in 8 months.” Froukje told me, trying to comfort my fears of dangerous roads after expressing a deep understanding of how my ER nurse brain thinks.

Froukje ate hot cereal and drank instant coffee while refusing to commit to a favorite place of travel. Joshua Tree, not surprisingly, stood out to her. But every landscape they encountered had a new experience to offer. The accumulation of these experiences, having time and meeting new people sounded more fulfilling to her than a favorite destination.

In the midst of their epic, were words only of encouragement for us to do the same, which, from strangers turned instant friends and resources, was just what we needed to start seriously planning a new type of adventure. Sean and I were not only entertained by these light hearted folks, we were intrigued.

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They began to pack up, gleefully telling us about how their next stop was waiting for them with a warm shower and the possibility of food and beer. We were excited to share their story and can’t wait for our paths to cross again. Thank you for your inspiration. Now we begin to plan a trip of our own! Bicycle trip through Europe? Yes, please.

Gear:

http://www.santosbikes.com/

http://ortliebusa.com/  -Rack systems, waterproof bags and backpacks

http://www.seatosummit.com/ -Sleeping systems, camp kitchen, water proof bags

http://www.spanninga.com/ – lighting accessories

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