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Mark here, husband, father and contributor of thefamilyride.com.

I have to apologize for the lack of recent content on my part. It has been too long since I have contributed to this site but I admit that I have been struggling to relate to ‘family adventure by bicycle’ as a philosophy in recent months.

There was a time when I was truly absorbed by all the possibility and excitement that is traveling by bike, and sharing that with my closest and most cherished loved ones. When I created this website over a year ago I thought I was irreversibly captured by the sense of freedom and human potential to be experienced on a bicycle. I have hopes that those feelings will be restored.

I am admitting to having lost sight of these precious values regarding this wonderful form of pass time many of us share. Somewhere during these past six to seven months I have allowed ordinary life pressures to quell my thirst for adventure to a point where I struggle to even glance in the general direction of my bicycles in the corner our tiny rented garage. I pass by them each morning in the dark before I climb into our SUV, where my commute across a couple of towns to an industrial park will guarantee me some compensation for adhering bits of fiberglass to each other and then sanding them.

This is all ordinary, acceptable behavior that my community understands and encourages… and yet I am unhappy. Why?

I can surf the radio stations for an inspiring song, as I do not enjoy hearing the news while I drive- after all, CNN makes sure I am more than current on missing airliners and murderous olympians while I eat my lunch at work.

Life is an automobile is life in captivity for me. In recent years I have been spoiled in a sort of compromise in the car: when I found myself riding in one it most often meant I was en route to an outdoor adventure.

This has reversed, which brings me to my additional challenge- my new auto destinations, two of them to be exact (if you exclude the gas station each week). One is an employment situation with no meaningful long term benefits and the other is a busy, routine weary household that is wondering where the ‘happy’ me has fled to. This is quite possibly the hardest of the two- a house filled with the very same people that I shared an incredible experience with, and how they toil with their over-scheduled, under-financed, domesticated day to day life.

We no longer understand one another in the ways we did last summer, instead we are weary at the end of each day as a result of our strangely localized household lives and are compelled to ‘zone out’ most evenings in some form until bed time.

Are the things that offer us stability and security really just holding us hostage from a life thoroughly and boldly lived? Are all the well-intentioned people around us really prisoners sharing the same cell? Are we all being tricked into believing that this is how human beings were intended to enjoy life? I’m not buying it. There is more to this game than chasing down invisible schedules and living safely perched from the earth that we crave.

This Sunday I will go out to the garage and look at one of those bicycles with honesty. This apathetic and weary man longs for it to take him away, to take his family away- from all this safe and secure emptiness and be adventurous again. Perhaps it will take a very long ride indeed- to clear my lungs, my mind and my soul of the gunk that I have allowed in.

Written by Mark and Erica

10 Comments

Patrick

Perhaps there are no answers to the questions you pose. Take minimal comfort in knowing that another father in another state ponders likewise. Your site recently provided information relevant to my desires, which include, but are not limited to, making a trip with my 3.5 and 5-year old boys up the C&O Canal for a length and duration I’m not sure. The weather is almost right for s24O trips in the interim. I’d love to read some posts of yours about smaller trips (perhaps forthcoming) or another mega trip…

A guru once said, “It could always be worse.” In dark days I always turn to the Mariner’s library. You, sir, need some Sterling Haden to chew on! The following is from “Wanderer”:

“To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise, you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen who play with their boats at sea… cruising, it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about. “I’ve always wanted to sail to the south seas, but I can’t afford it.” What these men can’t afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of security. And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine – and before we know it our lives are gone. What does a man need – really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in – and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That’s all – in the material sense, and we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention for the sheer idiocy of the charade. The years thunder by, the dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed. Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?”

Allison

Know that you have also inspired the Browns in Durango as well! We went form having dinner with you one night, to our first cycle adventure down the coast in Oregon…then the next summer the coast Washington….to spring break(in about 2 weeks) to AZ on bikes! You inspire us to keep pushing with kids in tow…to cloth diaper…to live simply…to bike while we can, but know that we still have to be a member of society…and then when we do ride, to have the best memorable memories as a family as possible.

Hang in there!
Allison

Marj

Hi Mark and family!

I’m reading this on my preposterous device, with my rump firmly seated on a household of financial unrest, to borrow some choice phrases from Patrick. I am not as much of a wanderer as yourself; I like to come home to my cozy cottage and garden most days, but your blog and posts have served as a wonderful reminder that we ALL need to dd some adventure to our lives. It’s easy to get tied up with the idea that there are things that you “can’t” do with small children, or as a family, and it’s so inspiring to see a family that defies those odds and assumptions.

So you’re nailed down to a day job right now, and neglecting those adventures. It’s okay. I might point out that I see a lot of families experience this, especially during this time of year. Our biology might drive us to be hunter-gatherers, but it was our ability to “specialize” that allowed tribes of people to stay in one place and create villages. Thus modern civilization, love it or hate it. The challenge that I think we all face, is what to specialize in? As modern people, we are faced with a social obligation to “contribute” something in exchange for the funds to feed, clothe and shelter ourselves and our families. We can no longer choose to be nomads. UNLESS we find a way to match that lifestyle with a “career”. Technology, ironically, has opened some doors in this area.

I don’t have any great advice. I still don’t know what it is that I’m meant to do for society, so I seek to focus less on what I’m not doing and more on what I am doing that is joyful to myself and my family. I’m a lot less likely to say “nah, not a great idea” and more likely to say “sure, why not?!”

Keep it up! You’re still an inspiration to us readers!

Jen

Love the honesty and truth in this. And I love reading about how bikes are used to help change lives inside and out. All the best. You are an amazing family and I can’t wait to read more about your journeys.
You might like this quote I posted on Twitter the other day….
“Life is short when you live in a loop. Stop repeating your days.”

Elle

Thank you for your honesty! I have been in awe of your epic family adventure and long for one of our own. This summer will hopefully provide our own experience. In the meantime, I am often overwhelmed at the idea of taking my two favorite people and riding off into the sunset–and dangers of the unknown. I take solace in the fact that so many others have taken these journeys and have come out stronger and more worldly. Your website is a incredibly inspiring to me. I hope that while you are finding your balance in this new chapter, you manage to let adventure into your everyday lives–maybe a weekend overnight bike trip to somewhere nearby? Maybe getting on the Warmshowers network and host and help other cyclists? We are all rooting for you (and here to offer support and encouragement).

Dan Guajardo

It’s difficult to top the profound response from Patrick. Just wanted to reply that what you and your family have accomplished is amazing and much more than most of us will have the means or mojo to accomplish in our lifetimes. For Team G (that’s my family), it’s a constant battle between financial obligations and real freedom. There was a time last year when we almost cashed it all out, bought a VW westie, and hit the road, all 4 of us. Instead, we were fortunate enough to be offered the chance to move to Colorado and have many of the things we cherish most at our doorstep. I suppose my point is there is always a trade off, always a spiritual and financial price to pay. I’m trying to hit it somewhere in the middle and achieve a “best case scenario” life balance. It ebbs and flows, but I try to make the most of every journey, basking in the glow of memories as we plan and dream about the next. It’s the best I can do at the moment, and for now it has to be enough. But so many strange and wonderful events have unexpectedly shaped our life’s journey, I know something amazing is just around the next bend. BTW, we would still love to meet up with you guys for dinner and a beer sometime to talk story. And I’m always good for a ride. Cheers.

Melissa

We ate routing for you and your family Mark! We are so lucky to have the luxury of the pursuit of our happiness; a true opportunity that can translate to such a burden in our current culture. Our family has tried several versions of avoiding the rat race and unfortunately we do not yet hold the magical solution. There are studies that point to our American
generation’s belief in both their “specialness” and entitlement to happiness and so sometimes when I’m beating myself up for not figuring it out it’s comforting to know this struggle is wider than my own racing thoughts. And it’s then that my partner and I take another stab at it. For that’s all we can do. THAT is special. Seeking human connection and humanity despite all the distractions and white noise. It can be done on a bike and yes I do think it can even happen inside an SUV, although that is only speculation. So keep at it, Mark. And let the Indigo Girls get it right for you, “if we ever leave a legacy, it’s that we loved each other well.”

Hiller

15 minutes on a bicycle can do more for you than most people realize. 20 is enough to remind you that there are birds in trees and that life is not as complex as we have managed to make it. It’s a great honest article.

Ryan

Mark,

I share your adventurous and outdoor spirit and I love how you are passing that spirit on to your children–what a gift to give your children. Your spirit energized me when I came across your site while serving in the military overseas. I share similar sentiments and suffer from occasional bouts of wanderlust that direct me outside and cause my mind to wander. I believe that with enough searching, you will find the answer you are looking for to your problem.

I may not hold the most popular thought on the matter, but reality (or maybe my perception of reality) drives my being. Unless I come up with an entrepreneurial idea to fund a wanderlust and adventurous lifestyle, or have a rich aunt die who happens to really love me, I have to live like everyone else to some degree (work/sleep/drive/occasional adventure/repeat) in order to provide for myself and my daughter. Living like everyone else ultimately funds the many mini adventures that quell my wanderlust spirit, temporarily, until the next flare up. I am also fortunate that I am a school counselor and have a substantial amount of time off compared to the majority of the population. I use that time off to fix my wanderlust spirit. This is an interesting topic and I would be glad to chat with you more offline if you so choose.

Be proud of what you are instilling into your children and feel lucky that your children can ride their bikes safely to school—how awesome is that?

CargoRider

I can relate to your longings. We have 2 boys turning into teenagers this Summer and before them, my wife and I rode many tours. I find my passion for cycling has become more of a utilitarian mode, which is not to say it is mundane in any way at all. I love trying to be more and more car-free/lite by running errands on bike including things like hauling my local bike groups valet gear by bike trailer, leading classes, etc.
Hang in there and if you and the family are ever in Longmont, look us up for a dinner.
Devin

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