By Jennifer Close
Book: Changing Gears: A Family Odyssey to the End of the World by Nancy Sathre-Vogel (NEW 2013)
Over one thousand days.
That is how long it took the Vogel Family to bike from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to the end of the world in Argentina, as related in Changing Gears. While that sounds like absolutely no fun to me (let’s face it…I don’t even like a bike trip around the neighborhood), I did find myself identifying with Nancy Sathre-Vogel and her struggles to be the best mother that she could be.
Although she and her family were making this journey of epic proportions, she still had a family to take care of. She questioned whether she was doing the right thing when her boys cried or complained because they were cold and tired. She wondered whether they would be able to adjust when it was time to return home because they were missing some of those formative middle school years.
Food played a major role in their bike trip. Will they have enough? Did they calculate the right amount of snacks to get them to their next destination? As a mother, she worried about providing for her children and making sure that they were taken care of.
Back in Boise, where she was a teacher who participated in the daily activities that most of us know as day to day life, she “woke up early and dropped the kids off at before-school daycare before spending all day with other people’s kids” and then she would pick them up, make dinner, clean house, do laundry and go to bed only to do it all again the next day. I related to how this wore on her because when I was a full-time teacher I felt the same way sometimes.
In the beginning of the Changing Gears, Ms. Sathre-Vogel talks about how the cycling adventure was something her husband wanted to do and she thought he was crazy at first. She saw herself as the weak link in their family. She saw herself as the one who tended to give up when things got tough. Throughout her journey from Alaska to Argentina, I think that she realized that she was quite the rock for her family.
During their days, they saw ancient ruins, towering mountains, and flatlands as far as the eye could see. They rode through national parks, crossed borders and met amazing people along the way. Nancy calls these people her Road Angels and the Vogel Family encountered many who helped them on their bike trip with food, bike repairs, housing, and friendship.
I believe that there are many ways to learn and conduct school for children but I felt that was the one thing missing from this book. The twin boys spent their 11th, 12th and 13th years on the road. While there was a mention here or there about taking advantage of learning opportunities, I wanted to know more about the schooling. Was the learning more of an un-schooling method and if so how was learning evaluated? Was it even necessary to evaluate? Did the boys have trouble catching up after the bike trip was finished?
Even if you can’t imagine yourself on a journey like this, you can appreciate the obstacles that this family faced to accomplish a dream.
Notes: Thanks to Nancy Sathre-Vogel for allowing us to use some photos from her website.
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