An Epic Family Bike Trip Across the Americas

Family Travel

By Jennifer Close

Family Bike Trip in Andes
“Nearing the top of our very first big climb into the Andes. We were terrified of that climb, but made it!”


Book Cover
Destination: North American and South America Bike Ride

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.

Family Bike Trip in Montana
“That was a surprise! We woke up in our tent on top of Big Hole in Montana to find everything covered with snow. It was a cold ride down from that pass…”

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.

Family bike trip in Peruvian desert
“Cycling the Peruvian desert coast. It was very, very barren and we frequently an entire day without seeing a single bush or blade of grass.”

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.

Bike Trip Ends in South America
The family bike trip ends at the end of the world in South America.

Notes: Thanks to Nancy Sathre-Vogel for allowing us to use some photos from her website.
A link to Amazon from the book’s title allows you to shop conveniently, but you need to know that we have an affiliate relationship with Amazon, so when you shop there, it help pays the rent to keep A Traveler’s Library in business. Thank you.

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About Vera Marie Badertscher

A freelance writer who loves to travel. When she is not traveling she is reading about travel. When she is not reading or traveling, she is sharing with the readers of A Traveler's Library, or recreating her family's past at Ancestors In Aprons . She has written for Reel Life With Jane, Life is a Trip and other websites. Also co-author of a biography, Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. Contact Vera Marie by e-mail.

9 thoughts on “An Epic Family Bike Trip Across the Americas

  1. i’m reading this now – it’s so engrossing, and such a tough time that this family went through – tailwinds, headwinds, cultural differences, weather, etc. i am struck by the kindness of strangers, and the immense love this family has for each other!

    1. Thanks Jessie! We did have some hard times, but so many good times as well. When I look back upon those three years, I remember the perfect spring days with the wind at our backs rather than those horrible moments 🙂

  2. I think I’d have wanted to know about the education deatails and the re entry situation too, but it sounds like a fascinating journey, filled with challanges of family and travel. thanks for the story, Jennifer

  3. I love families that don’t put adventure on hold because they have kids. This sounds like an amazing challenge for all of them.

    This is definitely going on my reading list. Now if only they had a pet. 🙂

    1. I totally think parents should go for it with kids in tow! Kids are amazing travelers.

      We were going to take our dog, Dash, with us on the journey. We had everything ready to go – he would ride in a basket on the back of my bike. Unfortunately, one month before we left he wandered off and got hit by a car. I was devastated and nearly called off the trip – he was to such a huge part of it I didn’t even want to go if he couldn’t be with us. In the end, I realized that I couldn’t stop because of a tragedy like that, and we flew to Alaska without him.

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