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Pinedale Online > News > July 2010 > ‘Family on Bikes’ in Bolivia

In Bolivia. Photo by Family on Bikes.
In Bolivia
The Vogel family, from Boise, Idaho, is on a 2-1/2-year, 20,000-mile bicycle trek from Alaska to Argentina. They came through Pinedale in October, 2008
‘Family on Bikes’ in Bolivia
Boise, Idaho family of four on a 2-1/2-year, 20,000-mile bike trek from Alaska to Argentina; came through Pinedale in October, 2008
by Pinedale Online!
July 12, 2010

Editor’s Note: On June 8, 2008, a family of four from Boise, Idaho embarked on a 2-1/2 year, 20,000-mile bicycle trek traversing the Pan-American Highway from Alaska to Argentina. Parents John and Nancy, and their 10-year-old twins Davy and Daryl, are traveling with two single bikes and a tandem, which allows the boys to switch back and forth between the single and tandem. Once they arrive in Argentina at the end of their journey, Davy and Daryl will become the new Guinness World Record holders as the youngest people to cycle the Pan-American Highway. Along the way, parents John and Nancy, both long-time teachers, are home schooling their sons along the way to keep them up on their schoolwork. They are incorporating the sights and history they encounter along the way as they travel the Pan American highway. The family came through Pinedale on October 9, 2008. Here is the latest update on their progress.

From: Nancy Sathre-Vogel
Sent: Tuesday, July 06, 2010 11:17 AM
Subject: Family on Bikes in Bolivia!

I’m sitting here on a comfortable chair in a cozy bedroom in a large luxurious house – and marveling at that very fact. The sister of a dear friend of ours has graciously offered the use of their home here in La Paz, Bolivia – even though they aren’t here to enjoy it with us. After perhaps our most difficult stretch yet, this is pure, unadulterated decadence.

It’s the little things that blow me away. The pot of hot water that is perpetually hot in the kitchen – want a cup of tea? Water’s ready! The stove that gets hot with just a simple turn of a knob. A refrigerator to store cheese and butter. Butter! Real creamy butter! Down comforters on the beds. And – get this – they even have some funky heaters that go under the sheet to heat you from the bottom! Toilet seats that are clean and aren’t freezing. Hot water that comes from the faucet. A DVD player and hundreds of DVDs. We’re enjoying the simple pleasures of life.

Since I last wrote, we’ve climbed up into the Andes over our highest pass yet – 14,856 feet. Temps have dropped below freezing nearly every night and we’ve woken up with frost-covered tents and water bottles filled with solid chunks of ice nearly every morning. We’ve learned to slow down and accept a slower-than-normal pace due to the high altitude.

During that climb, Daryl showed me – once again – just how determined he is to reach Ushuaia under his own power. That day we came around a bend in the road and saw, spread out before us, a massive 11-km climb snaking its way up the hillside – and we were nearly out of water.

"There’s no way we can do this climb without water," I said to John. "You stay here while the boys and I hitch up to buy water. We’ll be back in an hour or so."
John turned to Daryl and said, "Why don’t you just stay up there – there is no way I’ll be able to climb this hill with you on the tandem. You’ll be walking the whole thing anyway."

With absolutely no hint of hesitation, Daryl replied, "If I hitch up, then I don’t get the record. I’ll come back down."

In the end, we hitched up, bought water, then hitched back down to where John was waiting. All four of us climbed that hill under our own power.

Davy also showed me in no uncertain terms just how much he is enjoying our journey. As we pedaled side-by-side into Juliaca after cresting that massive pass, I talked about how excited I was to finally be nearing the southern border of Peru after doubting so strongly I would ever make it when we were in northern Peru. "It’s hard to believe we’ve had bad times on this trip," Davy told me. "When I think back on the trip, all I remember are good times." That made me feel good and I am so happy to know he has only great memories of our journey.

After two weeks of climbing, we were more than ready to ditch the bikes for a while. We arranged to leave them in a hotel in Juliaca while we took a bus to Cuzco. Although we didn’t realize it at the time, we somehow managed to time our visit at either the best or the worst time of year – depending on how you look at it. We visited Macchu Pichu on the winter solstice, so dealt with massive crowds. We were in Cuzco for Inti Raymi – the major Incan celebration of the sun. As one friend put it, "Visiting Macchu Pichu on the winter solstice and Cuzco for Inti Raymi without knowing it is like arriving in New Orleans for Mardi Gras without expecting it." He is right.
Although we enjoyed the history and color of Cuzco, we were more than ready to get back to our simple life on the bikes. We missed the peacefulness and tranquility of life on the road.

It was a quick hop down to Puno, where we visited the famous floating islands of Lake Titicaca – fascinating! There are actually about 50 islands in all, and all four of us were fascinated by how they built and maintained them. What a unique way to use your natural resources!
And then we pushed on – Bolivia was calling. We’ve found our daily mileage slowed significantly due to the high altitude of the altiplano – around 12,000 feet. After forty km, we’re tired. We can push on, but it takes a toll on our bodies. Mostly, we’ve aimed for 40 or 50 km per day.

Cycling around Lake Titicaca was magical – we were treated to gorgeous views of the lake and surrounding snow-capped mountains with each bend in the road. It was a masterpiece of color – the deep blue of the lake… the white of the mountains rising majestically in the distance… the clear blue sky… brown fields as rainy season is now behind us… Wow!

Finally, we arrived into La Paz and made our final 28-km descent through the massive city to Barbara and Rainier’s house. We’re enjoying having a stove to cook our own meals and a modern supermarket stocked with all kinds of American foods. We’re enjoying having a solid roof over our heads and soft beds to sleep in. In short – we’re enjoying a few days of luxury.

We plan to stay here for ten days or so before we hit the road again. We are still planning our route through Bolivia – this will be one of the most challenging parts of our route due to the sheer remoteness and lack of water. We aren’t sure if we will stay up on the high altiplano where temps will be well below freezing every night – although daytime temps are perfect for cycling - or if we’ll drop down into the Amazon basin where villages are more plentiful and temps are more manageable. We’ll have to decide in the next few days.

We figure we have somewhere between 6000 and 7000 kilometers to go to reach Ushuaia. We’ll have to keep moving for the next nine months or so, but we expect to reach our goal in March of 2011. We’re all motivated and I’m sure we’ll get there!

Thank you all for your encouragement and support. It means so much to all of us!

Nancy, John, Davy, Daryl

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  • Pinedale Online > News > July 2010 > ‘Family on Bikes’ in Bolivia

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