Thursday, March 24, 2011
Family’s three-year bike ride, a lifetime of memories

“It all came down to time,” Boise, Idaho, resident Nancy Sathre-Vogel told me. “We realized the kids would never be this age again. If we didn't take the time now, we decided we either do it now or we won't do it ever.”

That’s when Sathre-Vogel’s family of four made the momentous decision in 2008 to ride bicycles 17,290 miles, from Alaska to Argentina. (Not only that, her twin sons -- 10 years old at the time -- hoped to break the Guinness World Record for being the youngest to travel the most distance on a bike.)

The foursome set off on their journey in June of that year, and little did they know how much social media would help them along the way: “We needed to document our journey for Guinness and our website, and social media added so much to it. We have met so many people along the way who made our journey that much better. I'm proud to call all these people my friends.”

Sathre-Vogel posted photos and video on CNN iReport, all along the way, but she said the impact of social media went far beyond that. "There have been a few times where social media saved our bacon,” she said. “We put out the word that we needed help and people stepped up to the plate to help us and really showed the power of social media.”

In one case, they found a place to stay through Twitter and Facebook, while in Bogota, Colombia, after a weekend trip there away from their bikes. They left their passports with the bikes, though, which kept them from being able to check into a hotel. According to Sathre-Vogel, she put out the call for help and had a place to stay within 45 minutes.

Even in the middle of nowhere, they found beauty in their journey.

“We went along the coast in Peru -- we hit up headwinds every day and it was a barren desert, and we wouldn't see anything but sand the entire day,” Sathre-Vogel explained. “And yet it was absolutely gorgeous, to see the sands dancing on the prairie dunes. It became absolutely magical.”

Another location on their journey had special significance for Sathre-Vogel. She had spent time in Honduras with the Peace Corps in the 1980s. “It was great to ride back into my village after 22 years. It was almost as though I had never left. The boys were able to attend classes at the school where I volunteered at years ago.” (The twins were home-schooled on the road, a topic which Sathre-Vogel is passionate about.)

On Monday, the Vogel family’s three-year trip came to an end when they reached Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, where a sign is posted saying, “Fin del mundo,” or “end of the world.”

Now that they’ve reached that end, what did her kids learn? “The idea that people are good,” said Sathre-Vogel. “It doesn't matter what kind of wrapper they come in --- they’re all people and they’re all friends.”

March 24, 2011
Click to view LakewayJake's profile

Awesome!  How cool is that?  An experience no one in that family will forget.


If you want to read about bicycle touring and see a lot of pictures of other people's tour (you can search journals by locale) go to three w dot crazy guy on a bike dot com.  Pretty cool stuff this bicycle touring thing.

March 24, 2011
Click to view Freshies420's profile

That is great!  I wish I could have the freedom to be able to do something this amazing, but unfortunately most of us are chained to our desks 5 days a week.  I hope to just be able to ride the Kokopelli trail from Colorado to Utah one day.

March 24, 2011
Click to view Trepan's profile

Wow! This is something I never even dreamed of doing! Maybe a ride across the U.S. but this goes WAY beyond that!

March 24, 2011
Click to view wrcousert's profile

>unfortunately most of us are chained to our desks 5 days a week.


There are ways to do this if you really want to. Write a blog and sell advertising on it. Make sure you do lots of videos.


Work out in the field. Most of the world has Internet access these days.

March 24, 2011
Click to view KinNYC's profile

Wow! I want to know more. What routes they took, what people they met, what were the weather conditions, where did they stay, How could they afford it? Did they sell their house? Did they not see their relatives for the entire three years? Also, they must be in the greatest of shape. Brings new meaning to what you did on your summer vacation.

March 24, 2011
Click to view ChokingHazrd's profile

Sounds like a great trip but how did you get safe passage through Mexico? No offense to Mexico but it's not travel friendly cross country especailly to foreigners.

March 24, 2011
Click to view Riderup's profile

17,290 miles in 3 years is less than 16 miles a day, so something isn't adding up...   How much time did they spend not riding, like did they fly back to ID for the winter and restart in the summer?

March 24, 2011
Click to view outrageus's profile


March 24, 2011
Click to view rnmnj's profile

"17,290 miles in 3 years is less than 16 miles a day, so something isn't adding up...   How much time did they spend not riding, like did they fly back to ID for the winter and restart in the summer?"


Or maybe they rode 16 miles per day...  After all, they had two 10-year-olds with them.

March 24, 2011
Click to view shnawky1's profile

Riderup - SERIOUSLY?  It would only not add up if they claimed to do 17,290 in 90 days or adds up just fine.  What a miraculous journey!

March 24, 2011
Click to view SandieL's profile

Trepan--they've biked across the US as well.


riderup--if you go to their blog you'll read about their journey. There were some medical emergencies & other things that also happened so some days there were not able to bike. And there were a few times where Nancy came back to the US for supplies & interviews. So no they didn't bike "everyday" but biked many times 8 to 10 hours. And remember it's not all smooth surfaces, had mountains & other terrain to deal with as well. As well as having to rest & still meet school requirements for the boys.

March 24, 2011
Click to view cancermanny's profile

That's awesome.  If this inspires anyone, you should check out bicycletouringpro dot com.   Darren Alff goes on a new adventure every year and has loads of articles and advice for free on his website.

March 24, 2011
Click to view cutiepie1212's profile

Duuuuude, this is awesome. Koodos to this family. I bet it was a wonderfful journey and an amazing life experience, especially for the two boys. I hope I can do something like this in my lifetime.

March 24, 2011
Click to view AshCharles's profile

Wahoo!  My girlfriend and I actually met the family last year while we were in Peru so it is great to hear that they completed what is surely an amazing adventure.

March 24, 2011
Click to view hlafoon's profile

wow what an amazing story WAY TO GO GUYS!!!!!!!!!

March 24, 2011
Click to view BVick's profile

Anyone doing math to figure mile/day are missing the point. They weren't on a race they were on an adventure. No they didn't return to ID in bad weather.


They visited interesting people and places. They spent time learning what there was to see and do along the way.


Find out more about this amazing trip before you jump to criticize on a mile/day basis. But I am glad you know how to use a calculator.

March 24, 2011
Click to view MustSuck2BeU's profile

Yikes, imagine the thigh burn...

March 24, 2011
Click to view dragonemp's profile

shouldn't their 10years old be in school? this is a trip of lifetime but the kids also lost 3 years of study time and that may cost them their careers of lifetime

March 24, 2011
Click to view nancysv's profile

Ummm.. dragonemp, I can't even begin to imagine how my sons could have "lost 3 years of school".  They've been LIVING school 24/7 for three years!!!  We've taken advantage of educational opportunities in 15 countries and our sons have learned in a hands-on manner.


They learned about Darwin's theories of evolution in the Galapagos Islands where HE formulated them.  They learned about Magellan's journey aboard a replica of his boat in the town where the crew wintered.  They learned about Mayan culture by climbing Mayan pyramids and Incan culture by visiting Incan temples.


Our main concern right now is what are we going to do about their education?  They are so far ADVANCED in comparison to their peers that we aren't sure if they will be able to return to school.  Fortunately, Boise Public Schools has many options available and we will certainly check them all out, but we may continue to homeschool or perhaps do a half time public/half time homeschool.  We're also considering college classes, but we're not sure they are ready emotionally for that - they are only 13, after all.


I've written extensively about how we are homeschooling the boys at familyonbikes dot org / resources / school.htm

March 24, 2011
Click to view dspeakes's profile

The boys were "homeschooled" on the road, doing math lessons every night and writing essays about what they were seeing.  They learned history, social studies, geography, world cultures, language (spanish), reading (they are both avid readers), writing (blog entries and essays) -- all up close and personal.  Please go to and read their story from the beginning, it's a fascinating story of an incredible journey. 


Those boys learned more than "academic stuff" on the road -- they have developed confidence in themselves, learned about the value of teamwork, learned to tolerate inconvenience and discomfort and just carry on, learned that hard work and discipline are necessary to achieve great things, learned that perseverance brings rewards.  Those boys will be an asset to any company they would ever work for because they don't make excuses for not getting things done -- they find ways to do them.


Probably the most fascinating part of reading their blog is watching those two boys grow and mature, while still remaining boys who enjoy all the things "normal, public-schooled" kids enjoy, like video games and computers and books and play.


There were days they rode 50 or 60 miles and days they rode 8 -- and places they stopped for a couple of weeks to absorb and participate in local culture, rest from their travels, and live in a house with a shower and a stove.  Other times they camped out, bathed in creek water, cooked over a fire.  It wasn't a race, it was a way of life for them for nearly three years. 


It took courage and determination, but most importantly, they had to work together as a family, help each other, depend on each other, and keep their collective eye on the prize -- and they succeeded.


Congratulations to the Vogel family for their achievement, and thank you for sharing it with the world.

March 24, 2011
Click to view bikerider7's profile

What an amazing story!!!!! As a Harvard educated individual, I shared my time there with MANY home schooled kids.  My sister home-schooled her kids too and if the parent is good at it-- home-schooling can be a very powerful teaching medium. Like anything, it depends on the teacher, but I'd have to say these kids look like they have had a great learning platform!  What better way to learn history, then to live it!!!!!

March 24, 2011
Click to view jdmeara's profile

What an amazing story.  I hope to see more coverage regarding your story.  It sounds awe-inspiring.

March 24, 2011
Click to view Bluecrabz's profile

Nice work, folks.  You probably spent more time with your kids in three years than many parents do in a lifetime.

March 24, 2011
Click to view Fridaze's profile

Nancy, sounds like an incredible journey. How were you able to fund a three year tour like this without working?

March 24, 2011
Click to view elchino37's profile

Absolutely amazing! What a journey.

March 24, 2011
Click to view mcr022057's profile

Wonderful story and Kudos to the parents! On a smaller scale, when I was 14 and my dad (a language teacher) was on sabbatical, my parents took me out of school and we traveled throughout Europe for 3 months, using mass transportation only. I did my schoolwork in the mornings and we toured in the afternoons. By the time we'd returned and I went back to school, I had completed 8th grade requirements 6 weeks ahead of the rest of my class, and had experiences that are still vivid memories now, nearly 40 years later. So from first-hand experience, I can tell the parents that they did a wonderful thing for your children that they will never forget!

March 24, 2011
Click to view nancysv's profile

Fridaze - I've written about that topic a lot - you can see it all at familyonbikes dot org /resources /finances.htm


Basically what it came down to was making the decision to go - once you've decide you WILL do it, the pieces fall into place.  There are as many ways to fund an extended family journey as there are families wanting to do it - it all depends on your personal situation.


For us, keeping our home was the best option.  The house was paid for, so we rented it out and that provided around half of our expenses.  For the other half, we earned  a bit from our website and a small amount from donations from friends and another small amount from articles I wrote.  Whatever was not covered at the end of the month came out of our retirement fund.


You also need to consider that my husband and I are not young twenty-somethings.  We are both in our fifties and have worked many years.  We always lived frugally and saved.

March 24, 2011
Click to view spanish's profile

How did you get thru the Darien Gap in Panama? There is no road.

March 24, 2011
Click to view nancysv's profile

We took a boat. We could have flown, but opted for the slow method.

March 24, 2011
Click to view genhalftrack's profile

Congratulations!!  Truly an amazing feat! There’s NO WAY, any ‘Class Outing’ or Field trip could ever outdo  this. Y’all deserve “Hundreds” of Thumbs up!!

March 24, 2011
Click to view zety's profile

Felicidades! I am so jelous! Good for you!

March 24, 2011
Click to view fritz43's profile

I see 2 questionable attitudes here:


1. Fanatic about home schooling (what are they afraid of?)


2. Exposing 2 ten year old children to what could have turned out to be numerous dangerous situations.


There's a word for this: the word is ditzy

March 24, 2011
Click to view kjm250's profile

20 years ago i cycled solo across my country, Canada. I termed the trip "My Euorpe", as my friends chose to travel there after college, when my longing was to see my country first, before the rest of the world.  It was the trip of a lifetime for me and one that often comes up in conversation to this day.  What the Sathre-Vogel’s have accomplished with their kids in tow is almost beyond imagination. Just goes to show that when there is a will, coupled with determination, there is little that can't be accomnplished.  Congratulations and well done indeed!!

March 24, 2011
Click to view MateoDiego's profile

I know several people who have done similar trips and usually the point is to spend as much time visiting the places you come across. Not getting to the end.  Remember the journey is the adventure not the destination.  I also am friends with a family that sail 10 years around the world.  They told their 17 year old son that he had the choice to go to college or join them on the trip.  He chose the trip and learned far more than any college would have ever taught him.  Never under estimate the value of real world experience.

March 24, 2011
Click to view echotrain's profile

No child of mine would attend a school where fritz43 was a teacher.

March 24, 2011
Click to view dspeakes's profile

It wasn't that many generations ago that parents packed their kids, dogs, and household goods into a horse-drawn covered wagon and settled the west.


That was FAR more dangerous than anything the Vogels submitted their boys to.  What is dangerous about living?  Those boys had food, water, clothing, and shelter EVERY day of that trip.  They weren't being chased by Indians or subjected to the risk of a runaway team taking them over a cliff or wandering in a desert, not knowing where the next water hole might be.  Their biggest risk?  Being cold or wet.  Or hot and dehydrated.  Both of which are manageable with clothing and water.  Or hit by a car, which could have happened a block from their home.


People get so used to the comforts of walls and a solid roof and a heater and an air conditioner that they completely lose sight of the fact that 100 years ago . . . those things were somewhat of luxuries, or even non-existent.  They're so used to driving a car that they forget that human-powered transportation is how all generations but the last six got around (unless they had a horse).  I believe Abe Lincoln was known for WALKING everywhere.  That was only about 140 years ago.


Schooling used to be for the rich.  All others learned from their parents.  And life.


I only see ONE questionable attitude here, and it's not the Vogels'.

March 25, 2011
Click to view Lenny28's profile

That's some real experience you got riding from Alaska to Argentina. Meeting people of different cultures and seeing new places and most of all capturing the memories......... Kuuuuuuudos guys! Thanks for sharing the experience

March 25, 2011
Click to view Cyclesafe's profile

In 2008 I met the Vogel's in Ripley OH, sans Nancy who had flown home to CT(?).  By happenstance they wandered into an event celebrating a group of cyclists who were riding the Underground Railroad.  The two boys were fawned over as no doubt happens when their triple tandem stops anywhere.


I guess time will tell if their childrens' unique upbringing makes them better citizens or makes them just skilled at being homeless on a bike.  My feeling is that Nancy SV and Balloon Boy's dad have a great deal in common.   

March 25, 2011
Click to view gef05's profile

Of all the silly comments being posted, the worst is in regards to the missing school for three years.


Those children probably had the fullest and most intense education for three years that it is possible to have. Schools are one way to educate - life is another. The former tends to be a mere shadow of the latter. The knowledge and mindset these children will have gained is barely to be rated on the same scale as the (failed and failing) modern school system approach.


Kudos to the family for doing this. Hopefully it will inspire others to follow in your way.

March 25, 2011
Click to view infjitsu's profile


March 25, 2011
Click to view scrivnerme's profile

To the Sathre-Vogel family:


As my Aussie friends say, “Good on ya mates!”


Together you have had a wonderful, courageous, life changing adventure. One that I think, based on personal experience, and that of many families I have met over the years, all of you will treasure all of your lives, an adventure that will pay unexpected dividends in ways you cannot yet know. More on that below.


To the naysayers, in particular those who criticize you for taking your kids out of school: take a deep breath and try to see outside the closed boxes you appear to be living in.


To the rude people who called this family freaks: do the civilized world a favor and be silent until you can further develop as human beings. Go to a mirror and take a good look at the person who called a nice family freaks and ask yourself what kind of person does this. Introspection is good for the soul. Also, do grow a backbone. Hiding behind a screen name and making the remarks of a poltroon is disgusting, and plain cowardice.


As to the virtues of American high school and a traveling life, my wife and I raised three sons, all grown now, and took our boys with us as we traveled and worked, around the world. We believed that our family would be made stronger by being together and experiencing the world and all it had to offer as a family, rather than playing the standard roles of absent father, working mother and kids left to the TV. We also took our retirement in chunks as circumstances allowed.


By the time they were adults our sons had been to a good bit of Asia, most of Europe and the U.S. They had lived in a tepee, Soviet Block housing, apartments in Hong Kong, Barcelona, Prague, Koln, and a dozen or so other places, a year on our 53 foot sailing ketch, a series of VW campers across Europe and the U.S, as well as in houses in California, Oregon and Washington.


None of our sons completed formal - sit in a classroom - high school. We home schooled them and enrolled them in various schools wherever we were. We also took them out of schools where we found the narrow minded, bigoted and ignorant had taken over, all too common. How did that work out for them?


Our oldest, based on his SATs and the grades he did receive in formal high school was offered full scholarships to a dozen or so first tier colleges, including Harvard and West Point. He declined all offers because he ‘didn’t want to waste time.’ He apprenticed to Wolfgang Puck, and was running his own restaurant at twenty-two. After some years, and wanting a change, he taught himself all things digital, including graphics and editing. He now has his own post-production studio in Los Angeles, a son and a daughter, and is doing just fine.


Our middle son dropped out of formal high school to go to a residential program at a primitive skills/survival school in Colorado where he lived in a hut he built, floated down the Green River on a log for a week, ate whatever he could dig up or catch, and eventually became an instructor. He then volunteered for a political campaign and as a result of his work was asked to speak to a congressional committee, which he did. Then he worked nights in a commercial fishing net factory and earned the money to backpack around Europe on his own and with his younger brother. Deciding he wanted to go to collage he wrote to a famous eastern private collage. Based on his application letter and interviews they gave him a full scholarship. He now has two daughters, operates his own business and is planning to take his family to live in Europe for a few years.


Our youngest son learned to walk on our sailboat, was in and out of a half dozen grade schools and high schools and graduated from none of them. He taught himself photography and cinematography and worked at construction jobs and film production to earn money to go to Europe with his brother. After working on a couple of international productions he enrolled in a well known California art school. He now works on film production and will soon direct his first production in Thailand.


Things our sons missed by not going to American high school: boredom, pressure to conform, pack behavior and group think, racial prejudice, anomie and a fragmented family, an education that the rest of the industrialized world considers substandard.


Things they gained by traveling the world with us and on their own: open minds, freedom from fear, freedom from bigotry, a close knit loving family, an understanding that people are people everywhere, and a superior education.


What’s your next adventure Nancy?


Best wishes,




March 25, 2011
Click to view CircaRigel's profile

I don't think kids can get much better an educational experience than what Davy & Daryl received on their long journey- what Nancy calls "World Schooling." I'm honored to have the Vogel's as friends. They have been a real inspiration to me in my own cycling efforts. Their courage, compassion, and positive attitude are second to none.


Congratulations Nancy, John, Davy & Daryl! You're all AMAZING!

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