Bicycling overseas with kids has changed a lot since my last trip with two teenage daughters more than 10 years ago. More greenways, expanded rental options, improved route signage and more family-friendly lodging options have all helped make cycling the preferred vacation choice for millions of families around the world. Every summer, I am amazed at the number of bicycling families with young children that we meet, and the apparent ease with which they manage and coordinate traveling by bike as a family. That’s one reason why I had such a great time reading Rachael Killick’s blog, “Family Killick French Cycling Adventure 2014.”
I first “met” Rachael last spring when she posted a note on my Facebook page, looking for some help finding available campsites along La Velodyssee or EuroVelo 1 for a family cycling trip. I offered several suggestions for family campgrounds, but advised her that it would be challenging as camping is one of the most popular vacation types for French families, especially in August. We communicated once or twice more before her trip, and she let me know that she would try her hand at writing a blog about their adventures. From the first entry, I was captivated by the great adventure that the Killick family embarked on.
Let’s take a minute to meet the Killick family: Mom Rachael, Dad (and family Sherpa) Adrian, Tom and Emily, 5 year old twins and Hannah, the big sister at 8 years old. Rachael did a lot of research to prepare for this trip and judging from her blog and the photos, she did a great job of it. Looking at the trip photos and itinerary, Rachael did a perfect job of balancing days on the bike with days simply enjoying the local beaches and attractions.
When I read the ages of the Killick kids, I thought there must be a mistake! Who would take a bicycling trip with not one, but two 5 year olds! Truly this must be a special family. As the blog, and their trip evolved, you realize that they are a special family, one that completely embraces the unique adventure that only comes from exploring new areas by bike. The Killick family trip lasted 17 days in total, 9 of which were spent bicycling approximately 160 miles.
The family lives in Bristol UK and they began their bicycling adventure with a 21 hour ride by coach on the Bike Express from Dover to Bayonne, one of my favorite towns in France. From Bayonne, they began their journey north, following EuroVelo 1 or La Velodyssee. Toward the end of the trip, they spent several days in Arcachon which is truly a wonderland for kids.
Journal entries include several in the words of the kids, who for the most part adapted to the touring life on a bike effortlessly. As I read each entry, I envied Rachael’s and Adrian’s sense of adventure and desire to share this type of experience with their very young kids. Maybe it’s really easier with younger kids, I wondered. If so, I was sorry that I missed out on having this experience with our kids when they were younger. I decided I would not make that mistake with our grandkids someday.
As I read Rachael’s journal entries and looked at their photos, I was amazed at the ease with which the family tackled the challenges of traveling by bike and staying in a campground….. doing laundry and dealing with rain, noisy neighbors, cooking meals. For this family, it was all just part of the overall experience and any adversity only seemed to increase the fun of it all!
Anyone who has ever maneuvered taking a bicycle with panniers on the train will have a huge amount of respect for Adrian who somehow managed to bring 5 bikes, a carrier and other assorted luggage on the train by himself. How he did this I will never know. I have spend a lot of time coming in and out of the Bordeaux train station, and it is not the most friendly station to a traveler with just one bike, let alone a family. Perhaps I need to ask Adrian to write a guest blog post about this!
I especially liked the final entry, Rachael’s recommendations for taking a bike trip, with, or without kids. I love reading about other cyclist’s favorite gear and tips for the road, and Rachael’s thoughts were right on the money. For anyone who is thinking about planning a family bicycling trip in France, or anywhere else, let the Killick family be a great example of how to do it right and simply, even with small kids!
I had a great time following their trip this summer and I can’t wait to hear about their next bicycling adventure! If you’re interested in reading more, you can click here to follow the Killick Family’s 2014 cycling adventure.