January 19, 2018 - Eva Dunn-Froebig is Adventure Cycling's Events and Outreach Coordinator and shared her experiences on Adventure Cycling's Family Fun tours.
The only experience my son Milo and I had with bicycle travel before going on an Adventure Cycling Family Fun tour was when he was three years old and I pulled him in a Burley trailer into Missoula’s nearby Rattlesnake National Recreation Area for an overnight. We cooked pizza on a pizza stone on an open fire and listened to the wind from inside our cozy tent before riding a fast and fun downhill to the farmer’s market for breakfast the next morning.
Even though we loved it, we never repeated the adventure until I started working at Adventure Cycling six years later and became inspired to take Milo on one of Adventure Cycling’s guided, Family Fun bike tours. How could one not be inspired to go on a bike tour while working for a mission to “inspire and empower people to travel by bike”?
Since then, Milo and I have been on two Adventure Cycling Family Fun tours. The best part about family tours is watching the kids gain confidence and make new friends throughout the week. To quote one parent on the Family Fun, Idaho Trails tour, “It’s like summer camp, but for families.”
Getting to ride 25 to 45 miles each day on safe, low-traffic roads or bike paths — achievable yet challenging riding for kids and their families — is a bonus. Lots of other activities are mixed into Family Fun tours like swimming at a water park, whitewater rafting, and visiting an historic site. Then there’s the talent show on the last night of the tour. Milo played “Take Five” on his saxophone, and the friendly Adventure Cycling tour staff happily transported his instrument in their support vehicle all week.
Adventure Cycling’s family tours are designed to foster a love of bike travel in kids rather than push them too hard and make them feel discouraged. The staff carries all of your gear to your destination each night, and the caterer makes kid-friendly and adult-friendly fare to meet every dietary need. A bike mechanic is on hand to take care of any bicycle issues, and the snack and lunch stops are at all of the right moments — just in time to derail any tears or frustrations.
You still get to set up your own tent and experience the adventure of camping in a new place and at a slower pace without carrying a heavy load. The staff brings along board games, Frisbees, and kickballs to entertain in the evening as well as marshmallows to roast over a fire. I can’t imagine planning the logistics of a similar bike tour on my own! The tour staff think of every detail including labeling and packing swimsuits separately so they are ready post-ride, because they know that kids want to swim and eat lunch immediately when they arrive at their destination.
Families on the tours come from all over North America, and the kids become immediate friends during the map meeting on the first night. We encountered a family from Rhode Island on both Adventure Cycling tours we participated in, and their son and Milo picked up right where they left off when they were reunited on the second tour. Who knew that two boys from Rhode Island and Montana would become friends? In fact, all the kids were polite and well-behaved around their new friends. Maybe one week is just the right amount of time before kids get cranky around one another?
In order to sign up for a Family Fun tour, adults need to be accompanied by a child ages 8 to 17, and children need to be accompanied by an adult. We’ve met parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles on family tours. I hope to squeeze in a few more family tours before Milo gets too old, although I could be like the uncle we met on our last Family Fun tour who thanked his nieces for letting him take them on a family tour and let them know they are the reason he was able to be there.
Give the children in your life an experience they will never forget and take them on an Adventure Cycling Family Fun tour in 2018. Two are being offered in July 2018: Family Fun, Idaho Trails (so good I’d do it again!) and Family Fun, New York Erie Canal. Looks like Milo and I might be headed east this summer!
Photos courtesy of Eva Dunn-Froebig