Finding Connection and Simplicity on a Family Bicycle Tour

The author with her husband and son

My little family of three just returned home safely from our very first bicycle tour. 

Here are the logistics: we rode 160(ish) miles beginning in San Francisco and ending in Monterey.  We camped along the route, first in Half Moon Bay and then in Capitola, so we carried everything we needed in our saddle bags. Gear like our tent and sleeping bags were attached to our bikes.  We wore padded bike shorts. Our 7 year old son, Maverick was attached to his dad’s bike by using a trail-a-bike (the Burley Piccolo) and helped pedal the whole way. I rode a 1987 Raleigh Mountain Tour bike (in a perfect coral shade).  We spent a big portion of our trip riding on Highway 1 (Half Moon Bay to Santa Cruz) and on very beautiful coastal bike paths. We rode up steep and long hills. Our bodies were sore at the end of the day and we (mostly our son!) took quite a few roadside bathroom breaks.  

Our second day on the road began with us discovering that the coastline had lost electricity, but this didn’t hinder our adventure; we were mobile and refreshingly unattached to the normalcy of everyday life. It was also our longest day, pedaling almost 70 miles to our campsite in Capitola. I spent a lot of time in my bike saddle that day which allows space for thinking and dreaming. Even with the boys by my side, I was alone and in my head. Willing my body up tough hills, just me slogging along in a strong headwind and just my arms reaching out to the white feather pampas grass that lined the roadside. I felt so connected with my body, the machine I relied on to get me from Point A to Point B. And it felt so strong one moment and so achingly weak the next. But it was mine and I only had Me to rely on. That second day, so outside my comfort zone and so mentally challenging, had moments filled with light that held the fibers inside me together: Mav’s hand reaching out to hold mine, exhilarating descents that showered me in cool ocean air, white grazing horses dotting the wild land, dusty trails that lead to the sea cliffs and stormy beaches below, and those cheering feather pampas awash in golden light. These things held me up that day.

Here’s what the amount of miles and what type of gear we used does not tell you: that the tour was one of the most challenging things I have done both physically and mentally (and I’ve had a natural, unmedicated childbirth at home!).  That your seemingly little body is an amazing machine that is capable of getting you from point A to point B (with lots of sweat and some tears!) and there’s no fallback vehicle waiting on the side of the road when the going gets tough.  Your son will reach his hand out to hold yours on a particularly difficult stretch and look back from his little trail bike to check on you while you’re not-so-silently cursing while going up a hill and it will mean everything to you. That you’ll marvel at meeting another bike tourist who has traveled all the way from Seattle and is still smiling! Most importantly, your son won’t leave your side, cuddling at the beach and softly laying in your husband’s arms back at camp, the campfire lighting up the layers of dirt on his face.  He whispers, “You’re the best dad and mom is the best mom.” Right at that moment, you are looking around your campsite, filling up with beaming love for how everything you needed fit so perfectly on your bicycles and guess what, it wasn’t much. And the most important part were the people.  

Here are my final thoughts: the family connectedness and simple beauty of traveling by bike, without all the noise and all the stuff, might just be unmatched.

 – Benicia Smith, HUB Volunteer and Spouse