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Pinedale Online > News > June 2009 > Family on Bikes checks in from Costa Rica

Family on Bikes. Photo by Family on Bikes.
Family on Bikes
Progress as of June 2009. The family began their trip in June, 2008. Graphic courtesy

Vogels in Wyoming. Photo by Family on Bikes.
Vogels in Wyoming
The Vogel family passed through Wyoming in early October, 2008. Photo courtesy the Vogel Family.

One year into their 2-1/2 year, 20,000-mile bicycle adventure.
Family on Bikes checks in from Costa Rica
Family of four on a 20,000-mile, 2-1/2-year bike trek from Alaska to the southern tip of South America
by Dawn Ballou, Pinedale Online!
June 23, 2009

The Vogel family is in Costa Rica!

This family of four is on a 20,000-mile bike trek from Alaska to the southern tip of South America. They began their trip in June of 2008. Parents John and Nancy, and their twin sons Davy and Daryl, are spending two-1/2 years on this incredible bicycle adventure.

We encountered them last October when they came through Pinedale and ran into a strong winter storm that threatened to drop ten inches of snow, blizzard conditions and minus 10 degree wind chills to the Upper Green River Valley. They stayed at High Country Suites in Pinedale, enjoyed the hospitality of the town, and caught up on things until the storm passed and then resumed their journey.

When they reach the southernmost tip of South America, twins Davy and Daryl will become the new Guinness World Record holders as the youngest people to cycle the Pan-American Highway. They were ten when they started the trip and are spending their 5th, 6th, and 7th grades "on the road" learning and experiencing places and cultures as they go.

Now they are in Costa Rica. "We plan to beach-hop our way south, putting in short days and taking plenty of days off to explore and play in the waves. We expect to arrive in Panama in a month or so – where we’ll figure out how to get across the Darien Gap to Colombia. South America is in sight at last!"

To learn more about their adventure and sign up for their e-mail newsletter, go to:
Monday, June 22, 2009 Newsletter

It’s hard to believe that just six weeks ago I wrote from my Peace Corps home of Choluteca in southern Honduras. Now it is a bit more than a month later, and we are in southern Costa Rica – which means we’ve cycled a grand total of about 700 kilometers since then.

Nearly three weeks after we first rolled into Choluteca, we lashed, strapped, and buckled all our gear on our bikes once again and headed out. It had been a fantastic three weeks and we all enjoyed being part of Gloria’s enormous extended family. We enjoyed the birthday parties, the family gatherings at the beach, and the community cookouts. The boys had fun getting to know their classmates at school and learned a bit of Spanish. It was a fabulous time, but eventually the day came for us to move on – Nicaragua was waiting.

As I pedaled through Nicaragua, I continuously marveled at all the daily life going on around us. I love watching the farmers tending to their crops, women carrying corn to the mill, moms chasing after babies, teenagers chattering excitedly, and kids in their crisp uniforms walking to school. Normal life in the pueblo.

We spent a day in the small border town of Chinandega just hanging out, and I took advantage of the day to wander around with a camera in hand. There’s just something about life in third world villages that I find so much more "real" than life in the USA. I wish I could figure out a way to describe it all, but so far words have proven woefully inadequate.

As we cycled southward through Nicaragua, we had gorgeous views of various perfectly-formed volcanoes rising majestically before us. Some of them spewed steam into the air while others were quiet, but they all totally dominated our views for miles on end, and reminded me – once again – just how small and insignificant we are against the awesome forces of nature.

Managua ended up being the highlight of Nicaragua for us, even though we feared it would be a disaster for a while. When we pedaled into town, we visited a contact at a university, which set us back a few hours. By the time we left, it was late and we weren’t entirely sure we could make it to a hotel before dark. Tension was rising as we fought rush hour traffic and slowly made our way toward a hotel a few kilometers away.

"Hey John," I shouted to be heard above the traffic, "what do you think about asking at this church if we can pitch our tent here for the night?"

And so it was that we met Pastor Adolfo – who welcomed us into the church community and helped us more than he’ll ever know. For the next few days, Adolfo acted as chauffer, tour guide, concierge, and ambulance driver as we explored the city of Managua. Our stay – originally planned for only two days – quickly stretched into a week as we stayed around in order to be interviewed for a TV show, and then to allow John’s injured thumb to heal. With each passing day, we discovered additional hidden corners of the area.

A week later, John’s thumb had healed sufficiently to push on, so push on we did. In Grenada, we stayed at the local fire station and the kids got to ride in the fire truck. The next day we met up with another cyclist, David (, who is also on his way to Argentina. And a day after that, we made our way down to the border and crossed into Costa Rica – our eighth country so far!

Costa Rica started out slowly for us, but has gradually proven herself to be not quite as bad as we had feared. Our original plan of beachhopping along the outer coast of the Nicoya peninsula was dashed when we discovered the entire road was now a muddy mess due to the rains – and the main road meant fighting the worst traffic of our entire journey.

We battled extraordinarily impolite truck and bus drivers for a hundred miles or so, and finally made the decision to leave the main road and take our chances on another 45-kilometer stretch of dirt road coming up. But that side road has, so far, proven to be great!

We’ve enjoyed a few days hanging out on the beach – watching scarlet macaws flit from one tree to the next and leaf-cutter ants make trails through the dense jungle undergrowth. The boys are excited about surfing at Costa Rica’s surf capital of Jaco, and we are all excited about heading out to another beach to watch sea turtles nesting.

The challenge these days – in addition to fighting traffic – has been dealing with the extreme heat and humidity of the area. We’ve taken to getting on the road by daybreak and getting off by noon, but it’s still a challenge. As John and I pack up the bikes in the dark at 4:00 a.m., we wander around with sweat dripping from our bodies as though from a faucet. By the time we hit the road at 5 or 5:30, we are drenched – and don’t dry out until we finally sit still under a fan somewhere.

We’ve found it’s a great challenge to physically drink enough water to replace what we sweat out, and are regularly drinking rehydration salts mid-morning. No matter how many water bottles we carry, it simply doesn’t seem to be enough!

But we’re doing well, and are making progress – albeit slowly. We plan to beach-hop our way south, putting in short days and taking plenty of days off to explore and play in the waves. We expect to arrive in Panama in a month or so – where we’ll figure out how to get across the Darien Gap to Colombia. South America is in sight at last!

Thanks for traveling with us! We truly appreciate all your support.

Nancy, John, Davy, Daryl


I'm trying a new method for sending this newsletter since so many people were unable to read the other ones. However, I haven't figured out how to add photos. You can see all our photos at

The school year is now over, and so we’re taking a break from Reach the World. It’s been a great year taking the kids from New York City along with us, and we’re excited about the possibilities for next year!

We are now on Twitter and I’m making an effort to tweet on a semi-regular basis. You can follow us there at @familyonbikes

Experience our Dream Come True!

Related Links
  • Family on 20,000-mile bike trek visits Pinedale - (Pinedale Online, October 10, 2008)
  • Pinedale Online > News > June 2009 > Family on Bikes checks in from Costa Rica

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