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Two-Wheeled Trippin': Turning a Bike Ride Into a Journey

The call of the road means epic bike trips for some riders


There are some talks that most families are just never going to have, like the one in which you sit down with your children and ask them if they would like to spend the next three years exercising every day, not living in a house and occasionally being miles from people who even speak your language.

Admittedly, most people would never even imagine having that conversation, but most people aren't like the Vogels, a Boise family of four who spent three years riding bicycles from the northern coastline of Alaska to the southern tip of South America.

"When the kids were 8, we sat them down and asked if they would like to go on a long trip," said Nancy Vogel. "And to our surprise, they said, 'Yes.'"

Fortunately, John and Nancy Vogel were old hands at bike touring, and the family was already cycling regularly for fun and exercise.

"We knew exactly what we needed, and we knew exactly what the kids needed," said John.

They already owned most of the necessary equipment, though the trip would require a new tandem bicycle to accommodate their twin sons, David and Daryl. But the trip could have been a lot more expensive if the family hadn't attracted the sponsorship of companies like BOB Trailers and Ortlieb.

BOB Trailers--which relocated to Boise from California three years ago--makes rugged strollers and one-of-a-kind bike trailers, which reduced the need to carry gear in panniers (a fancy French term for saddlebags). Ortlieb is a German manufacturer of rugged, waterproof bags and panniers specifically designed to take a beating on trips like the Vogel's.

Son David actually outgrew his bike while they were on the trip.

"He grew a good foot in eight to nine months," John said laughing.

Considering the boys celebrated their 11th, 12th and 13th birthdays during the trip, it's a wonder they didn't outgrow everything.

There's something about long-distance bike touring. Maybe it's the romance of the open road, the freedom to go ride in any direction, or the hailstorm bearing down on you from behind. Except for that last part, thousands of people excitedly embark annually to ride every which way and through about every corner of the world.

Dave Fotsch, a former broadcaster who now serves as the public information officer for the Ada County Health District, has quite a few roadtrips under his belt. It started with a 4,000-mile ride in 1987 with a friend from Milwaukee to Southern California. They saved up for months, quit their jobs, moved out of their apartments and hit the road for four months. It could have been a shorter trip, if not for the factors that determined their route.

"We choose the route largely by where we had friends and relatives because we could scam on them for food and beer," said Fotsch, half joking.

It's hard to imagine today, but the two made the trip on a budget of $5 a day--for both of them.

The trip must have been a rewarding experience, at least judging by Fotsch's choice to ride the length of the Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico years later. Fotsch and his riding partners broke it up into stretches that were conquered over an eight-year period, but that doesn't take much from the accomplishment.