Life on the road has
an elegant simplicity about it; the essentials of life are
obvious - food, shelter, something to wear, a well oiled
steed, a plan for the day, some good company. There is little
more you need concern yourself with. What's not so simple
is deciding what you will need for this simple life, what
to leave behind and how to carry it all with you.
We like to tour with
a sense of true independence - equipped so we can stop anywhere,
set up camp, cook a nice hot meal, then curl up in toasty
warm sleeping bags in a spacious tent - wherever we are,
whatever the weather. It's not everyone's idea of fun for
it means a heavy load even before you add in the kids, but
it does mean you can travel very cheaply and have the ultimate
freedom to stop when you want without worrying about finding
hotels, hostels or campsites. And when you're travelling
with kids the ability to stop, cook and camp whenever you
need to can make life a lot less stressful.
We know polar explorers
can man-haul 90kg sledges to the North Pole in arctic conditions
so think we should be able to pedal a similar load of bike,
child, trailer and baggage around New Zealand, Samoa, the
USA and Canada in a perpetual spring and summer. Only time
We've given up a four
bedroomed period townhouse for a four person hoop tent.
Our Hilleberg Keron
GT was nicknamed the 'casa rapido' (quick house) by bemused
Ecuadorians unfamiliar with campers. With practice and without
the kids 'help' we can get it up or down in 10 minutes.
It's small enough to carry on the bikes, large enough for
four adults to stretch out and slumber in bug free comfort,
with two spacious bell ends for cooking, storage or putting
naughty children in.
The House: Casa Rapido
We've swapped a 15
year old 3 series BMW with 175,000 miles on the clock for
two expedition equipped hybrid bicycles towing two tiny
caravans for one. The bikes are equipped to carry heavy
loads (and I don't mean the riders!), with wide gear ranges
to help us cope with the ups and downs of our journey, extra
strong wheels and tyres that can hack it whether we're on
or off road.
Stuart rides a custom
built Condor cycle
with a conventional steel touring style frame, a hard leather
saddle and no suspension. It's strong, heavy and steely
grey. Kirstie rides a Trek
8000 'styled for women' mountain bike with an aluminium
frame, lovely gel saddle, and suspension seat post and forks.
It's light, comfy and white. Both have
Blackburn or Old
Man Mountain expedition grade front and rear racks for
panniers. Cateye lights
front and back mean we can travel, see and be seen night
The boys ride in two
Burley D'Lite child
trailers hitched to Mum and Dad's bikes. Each is big enough
for two, but experience suggests only one comes out alive.
With room inside for books, toys, food and drinks, these
are definitely the place to be if you want to travel in
style and comfort. Protected from the sun, the rain and
the wind, you can snooze if you want, gaze out the window
or heckle your pilot all from the safety of your five point
The Wheels: All loaded with baggage
Vuitton is out; Vaude
is in. There's an art to packing and we've had to be ever
so creative to cram our bedroom, kitchen, wardrobe, bathroom,
medicine cabinet, office and workshop into eight Vaude World
Tramp panniers and two Komet bar bags. Kirstie's haul is
a splash of matching blue while Stuart's lot is black and
red. What won't fit in panniers is stuffed in dry bags,
stashed in trailers or bungeed on bike racks. Two Vaude
tarp and travel bags serve us twice as extra bags by day
or in transit and as rain covers for bikes and buggies by
night. When it comes to packing we say a place for everything
and everything in its place. At least that's the theory.
When the wheels stop
turning and the casa goes up rapido, it's not long before
the bedding's unfurled and we're ready to curl. Four Ultralite
themselves and keep us comfy some 25mm off the ground. We
wrap up warm in soft, silk sleeping liners which slide into
downey three season sleeping bags. When it's all laid out
and all puffed up, the bedroom is a soft and bouncy playground
for young boys. In the morning it all stuffs down into two
large dry bags which sit in the back of the trailers.
point your mouse and see it packed!
Food is fuel. Without
it wheels do not turn, kids cry and our tour comes to a
standstill. The kitchen and larder panniers contain everything
we need to make a satisfying snack or mouthwatering meal.
We use a MSR
Dragonfly stove for cooking, running on white gas or unleaded
fuel depending on what's available. Its' powerful hiss and
bright blue flame are comforting signs of impending refuelling
at any time of the day or night. Our cookset is simple and
versatile; two stacking stainless steel pans with lids that
double as frying pans, plates or serving dishes. When dinner
is served, it's in green plastic bowls or
Bob the Builder plates depending on your age, and, with
one small nod to civilisation, eaten with stainless steel
camping cutlery. Two insulating mugs keep our coffee warm
when we forget to drink it while two plastic beakers keep
falling over when the boys forget where they put them.
Two 10 litre Ortlieb
water sacks keep us hydrated on longer runs in the wild
and a Katadyn Pocket
water filter helps us keep them safely topped up from lakes,
rivers or other risky water sources. A small flask for hot
water means a roadside brew is never far away while a spare
flask of fuel means we can be far away and never without
We keep the larder
stocked with basics and topped up with luxuries. You can
usually find flour, oats, spices, dried milk, pasta, vegetables,
fruit and oil in our panniers. And we're always on the lookout
for bread, butter, cheese, cakes, biscuits, chocolate and
sweets. Luxuries on top or handy in the bar bag, basics
packed away for longer stops and mealtimes.
The kitchen: point your mouse
and watch it pack up!
Our suite of wardrobes
consists of four blue panniers, one per person; small front
ones for the boys and large rear ones for adults. Everything
to wear, day and night, come rain or come shine, for 10
months fits into these. For us this years fashion is functional
and flexible - cycling shorts and shirts, t-shirts, shirts,
fleeces, trousers, socks, underwear, waterproofs, hats,
gloves, cycle helmets and swimming costumes. Plenty of thin
layers we can put on or take off to get the temperature
right, lots of dark colours that hide the dirt, and never
more than three of anything… one to wear, one to wash and
one for tomorrow. Cameron has managed to negotiate an exception
to the rule of three; with an ongoing potty training entitlement
to extra pants and trousers, at least for the moment.
For much of the time
rivers, lakes and bushes are the new bathroom; the views
are great but the waters cold. We've swapped big fluffy
bath towels for small abrasive travel towels; our only lotions
and potions now those that keep the sun and insects at bay.
We've a small bathroom bag crammed with hotel sized portions
of soap, toothpaste and shampoo together with a hairbrush
and razor to help keep the caveman look under control. And
for a touch of luxury we've got toothbrushes with full length
handles; apparently real tourers cut them down to save space
The medicine cabinet
Travelling with kids
we know there will be bumps, bruises, cuts and scratches
to deal with, whether from bouncing in trailers, scrapping
with brothers or the general day to day testing that toddlers
do on their bodies. Our first aid kit has all the essentials
for dealing with this, in particular lots of Bob the Builder
plasters and jelly babies, and some basic medical supplies
in case something more dramatic should happen.
While our transport
and living accommodation may be fairly primitive, our technology
pannier is 21st century, enabling us to stay in touch, capture
and write about our experiences, update our web site and
collate our research findings while on the road. Oh and
it's a pretty versatile entertainment centre too - offering
music, games and movies to distract us in difficult moments
on a wet, grubby evenings in God-forsaken wilderness campspots.
By fusing primitive living with a little high technology
we hope to be able to use the latter to help us capture
and share our experience of the former.
Nestled in the foamy
interior of our technology pannier is a
Dell Inspiron laptop with DVD/CD drive - our typewriter,
photo editor and entertainment centre. For photography we're
using a Canon Powershot
S50 saving images onto 250mB data cards. We've got a Sony
NSF810 minidisk recorder for recording interviews and journals,
also doubling as a personal walkman and FM/AM radio. And
for comms we have a quad band, GPRS capable Motorola
mobile phone enabling us to make voice calls and check email
on the move when within network coverage.
We're carrying a small
12W solar charger which on a sunny day will provide free
power to recharge batteries. And when the sun fails us we
can hook up to either a 12V car supply or a 110V/240V mains
supply to keep the office running.
The incredible shrinking office:
point your mouse and it all packs up.
We know from bitter
experience that anything that can go wrong will. And that
the thing you least expect is the most likely to give you
trouble. And that whatever does go wrong will be the one
thing that you have not got the tool, spare or know-how
to fix. Armed with this knowledge we've scaled down our
workshop but are still taking a collection of cycle tools,
essential spares and assorted 'bits and bobs' to help us
cope with the day to day maintenance needed to keep the
bikes, baggage and equipment serviceable and the circus
on the road. We've got what we need to fix punctures (in
bikes or beds), adjust brakes and gears, replace broken
cables, repair clothes or panniers and patch up the tent.
For anything else we rely on the goodwill of strangers,
the power of the credit card or the power of God to get
us out of trouble.