A Family Biking Vacation (On Less Than $20 A Day!)

If you're reasonably fit and have a bit of mechanical aptitude, a family biking vacation is an affordable way to travel the countryside. Here is one account of such an outing.

| March/April 1983

  • family biking vacation - father feeding son at roadside
    Eating on the road (literally) can sometimes have its minor discomforts!
    Teri and Tom Palmer
  • family biking vacation - fixing a flat tire
    Tom could handle any minor repairs, like changing a tire!
    Teri and Tom Palmer
  • family biking vacation - at a roadside stop
    Mom and the boys at a roadside stop during the Palmer family biking vacation. As you can see, Ben and Jon are still pretty refreshed in their "Bugger."
    Photo by Teri and Tom Palmer

  • family biking vacation - father feeding son at roadside
  • family biking vacation - fixing a flat tire
  • family biking vacation - at a roadside stop

"I only know one way of finding out how far one can go and that is by setting out and getting
there." (Henri Bergson)

It's a shame to think of all the families that will doggedly set out on "vacations" this spring and summer in cars filled with bulging suitcases, comic books, spilled food, Dramamine pills, costly fuel, and headaches. After all , there's a whole world out there just waiting to be explored — with greater freedom — from the seat of a bicycle ... and you don't need a lot of money or pedaling expertise to do it, either!

Last August, my husband Tom and I took our two sons, Ben (4 1/2) and Jon (2) — along with our miniature poodle, Rowdy — on a 12-day, 570-mile family biking vacation in southwestern Wisconsin. And the total cost of our family adventure was only $220!

We first decided to undertake the trip because ... well, just because it seemed like a natural thing for our family to do (the cash savings influenced our choice, too, of course). After all, we love the outdoors (and had gone camping together several times), we already had two good ten-speeds (Tom's custom Trek and my Raleigh Gran Prix), and my husband was familiar with the basic jobs involved in keeping a bike in shape (changing a tube, fixing a broken chain, and general tune-up techniques). However, despite such "natural resources," we still had to tackle a lot of preparation before we actually hit the road.

Charting the Course

Our first step was to write to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to request county maps (the ones that indicate types of road surfaces) and to the Department of Tourism to get maps showing bicycle routes, points of interest, and possible campsites. Every state offers these, although the fees charged will vary.

To get topographical maps of some of the areas we planned to go through, we wrote to the Branch of Distribution, U.S. Geological Survey. [EDITOR'S NOTE. You'll first need to ask for a free index of the state(s) you plan to visit so you can choose the appropriate quadrangles. Each map will cost $1.50 to $2.00. They cover only small areas, though, so the price could add up if you were to collect all you'd need for a long trip.]

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