Last spring, my two-year-old son and I went on an amazing journey. Together we cycled across the Idaho Panhandle on the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes. We did 73 miles in just over three days.
When I told my friends and family about the trip, I got wide-eyed looks. “Just the two of you? Alone? In the wilderness?”
Admittedly, I was nervous. Would we be safe without my husband along? The poor man is always working to give us this wonderful life we have. Could I pull off the logistics of traveling with kids: packing, lodging, shuttling the car? Am I even capable of riding that many miles, towing a trailer with my kiddo and all of our gear?
I'd never done anything like it before, but I felt inspired. For three years now I have been a part of an amazing group of (mostly) women who are pushing themselves and supporting each other through the 365 Mile Challenge.
The goal is to go outside for at least one self-propelled mile every single day of the year. We post our stories, achievements, adventures and miles on a Facebook group to push each other along. I saw women hiking to the tops of mountains. I saw running mothers pushing multiple children in strollers. I saw families cross-country skiing through forests. I wanted to do it all!
Being a part of the 365 Mile Challenge has helped me to get outside every day, even on ‘bad weather’ days or super busy ones. Over time, it has given me a strong body that allows me to do whatever I want it to! And it has inspired me to try new activities and explore new places.
I'm grateful for the support that launched me into this family trip with my sweet boy. Overall it was a huge success, but a few things I had to learn the hard way. I made these mistakes so that when you head out on yourepic adventure, you won't have to! You're welcome.
8 things NOT to do on a family bike tour:
Don't you dare ride past a playground without stopping! The epic level of tantrums that ensue will rival the epic level of your adventure. I recommend stopping often to check out the local attractions, scenery, wildlife, rocks, sticks, whatever. That's when you'll really have some fun.
Don't bother stopping to make a lunch. Just leave a big pile of food in the trailer where your kiddo can eat the miles away and make a huge mess. Seriously, I stopped to make us snacks and lunches often and every single time I ate alone while my son was busy throwing rocks in a lake or banging a stick on a tree. Lesson learned: for kids, stops are for exploring and riding is for eating.
Don't worry about wild animals. Wild animals are inspiring: The risk of being trampled or eaten really pumps up your adrenaline! Okay, I did bring bear spray, but it didn't feel like much against the four MOOSE we nearly ran over or the, yes, COUGAR eyeballing us from the shore. If I were to do it again, maybe I would also tie bells to our spokes to make some more noise. While I found these close encounters a bit nerve racking, it was also thrilling! We saw so much wildlife! Eagles, herons, turtles, beavers, otters – we loved stopping to watch them and talk about them. But, just to be on the safe side, if you see a critter sizing you up as a potential next meal... DO ride a long long long time before stopping.
Do NOT miss an opportunity to dump some pack weight at your first overnight destination. After two miles pulling 60+ pounds of trailer, kid, gear, food and water, turning around and going home was WILDLY tempting. Early that first morning, on the way to the trailhead, we drove past the campground cabin where we'd spend our first night. I stopped to ask if I could check-in early and leave some things in the cabin, but the owner was gone. I wish I'd called ahead; stashing some gear to pick up that night would have made my first day a LOT easier, and the prospect of giving up much less appealing.
Don't bother to bring a map. It's much more fun to just wing it and ask passersby which town you're in. There were quite a lot of trail signs along the way, but none of them ever had the handy ‘You Are Here’ arrows. It was a little tricky to gauge how far we had gone or had to go. Hmmm, knowing how far you need to get each day and then tracking the miles on your GPS . . . that would be so clever.
Don't bother pulling dinner weight around. Your credit card weighs much less and you’re going to want to eat dinner at the local diner anyway. I was really stressed about what to pack for dinner that wouldn't weigh much. I worried about how I was going to cook it. Silly. They make a great garden burger at One Shot Charlie’s! More silly: I pulled those uneaten dinners the WHOLE way!
Don't forget your padded shorts! You'll want to break up with your bike after 73 miles and the sorest bum you've ever felt! Really. We trained for this trip. Lots of biking miles to get my legs ready – but how do you prepare your rear? I guess I should have been conditioning for the bike seat. I felt bruised for days after we got home and it was weeks before I was interested in riding my bike again
Don't miss YOUR opportunity to make a lifetime memory and share an epic adventure your kids. I am not an elite athlete. I am not super brave. I am just a regular gal who wants to try new things and teach my son the immeasurable value of exercise and the great outdoors. If we can do it, anyone can!! And it's worth it. I will never forget that incredible family trip that my baby and I took together.
Join me and get inspired: Build a healthy lifestyle. Try something new. Let your body soak in all the benefits of being in nature and breathing fresh air. Start planning your big adventure. Join me – let's do this, together!
- Julie G
It's not too late to join the 365 Mile Challenge!
Fired up? Let's do this! Limited time registration for the 365 Mile Challenge open March 16-20.
Or, Check out their FREE Spring Mini-Challenge: Breaking Into Spring with the Spring Equinox, March 16-20.
Participating in Mini Challenges is a great way to stay motivated throughout the year. These Mini Challenges are open to anyone. If you're curious about the year-long challenge, this is a great way to get your feet wet.