I was writing this post 3 months ago when we just began the cycling phase, but haven’t been able to focus and finish. Now after riding for more than 100 days, what are our thoughts of traveling on the two wheeler so far.
3 months ago sometime in early Aug 2015:
It had been a fantastic 5 months of travel with our fully loaded backpacks. Riding on trains and buses was fun and comfortable, with the occasional short flights that brought us from country to country. That adventure shall be told in couple of posts yet to come. The troublesome part of backpacking as a family with young children was carrying all those bags between places, otherwise we were good. Sometimes on the transit, we had coffee, tea or hot chocolate, while we relaxed and watched a movie or catch up on chat with the unlimited WiFi onboard. More importantly, we didn’t need to worry much about the traffic, the weather, the conditions of the road or where we would be that night. Simply, we would just board, rest, eat, sleep, and arrive at our destination, covering hundreds of kilometers each time. Stay at one place for a few days and then move on again. We are usually in control.
For the last 10 days, we felt small riding along the Finnish highway, E75 in Lapland. The road was awesome, pretty flat and gradually rolling. The traffic was calm and orderly and the passing vehicles gave us ample clearance. They were mostly travellers like us driving their luxurious motorhomes or caravans, and speedy motorcycles fully loaded for the tour. We could hear them coming well enough. On both sides of the road, we could see endless stretches of pine trees, tall and straight. Once in a while, we would meet a lake or river and a good reason to stop and bring out the camera. Being on a bicycle, suddenly we could feel and listen to nature and see the little things. Butterflies flying across and beetles wondering on the road. Unfortunately some of them adding to the number of the roadkill population. We also encountered the royal family of Lapland, the reindeers. Some brown, some grey and some white. Many had huge antlers and they looked majestic, staring at us passing their forest. This seemed like a perfect holiday, until the rain come. It has not been a good Summer this year. In fact, we rode off from Rovaniemi train station in a drizzle. Surely a dreadful start for our cycling journey. We swiftly put on a rain jacket for everyone and rode off to seek shelter and shop to stock some food.
This is a whole new experience for us and even bigger one for our kids.
YiKen has been really easy going and followed the flow with jest. He missed his toys but he also enjoyed the nature very much. He was quick to adapt and found branches and stones as his new toys. When we put up the tent in the great outdoors, cooking with the camping stove and snuggling in the sleeping bag, he was most delighted. Never mind the simple food, the rain or wind. He was our champion.
YiXi was equally playing along, however she had also began to want self control, insisting her way. The age of terrible two no doubt. We had mounted a child seat on our bicycle in Hyvinkää and she had claimed all her rights for it, not letting her brother any chance close to it. YiKen has to give in unwillingly nonetheless, though he sometimes throws a tantrum, he was still glad to continue the travel in the trailer, which he has labeled his caravan.
Both kids are playful in their own way and we had many memorable moments, discovering this travel on our two wheeler. However, we were also making many adjustments to this new experience. Cycling tandem with such a load is tough. We were having more frustrations as we needed to make more decisions as a family. With the rain coming every other day, it was miserable to be wet in the day and cold at night when we camp. It became particularly difficult when it rained heavily and we had to “force” YiXi to sit in the trailer. Not being close to mama and not having “ne ne” was too much to bear. Especially when she wanted to nap since she was so used to dozing off in the comfort of mama’s “ne ne”. We had to make many stops along the way and once it had been raining but the nearest shelter, a cafe, was still about 10 mins away. We had to let her scream and cry in the trailer while we pedalled like crazy.
When we didn’t find a host for the night in advance, we would try to ask for shelter in people’s home or to camp in their garden if the weather is good. It wasn’t always easy, but we have been quite successful. It was the happiest part of day’s end when we were accepted in their home. Not only were they helpful and kind, we were treated with the warmth of the Finnish hospitality, their beloved sauna. One day, the sauna felt the warmest. It was a rainy day and we have cycled more than planned due failed attempts to find shelter and the hotel room costs more than our budget. We arrived at a tourist town and most people directed us to the town center for more hotels. YiXi had been crying for a while, YiKen was shivering in the cold. We were desperate and was prepared to head to the center. Just then a car drove up to parked beside a cottage. Out came a man carrying some groceries with his daughter. We popped the question and after a brief moment, he gestured us to come in. He explained that that was his company’s holiday house and he would be leaving tomorrow early in morning and hope we can as well. We agreed and then he said that the sauna will be ready in half an hour.
There were times of misery and we were stucked with it. We have also met warmth when in despair. Now, after more than 100 days on the road, we have learnt more and gained much experiences. Yet the thought of giving up and flying home was still really near. Just about one and a half month ago, we were staying at a host whose home is merely a 7 mins walk away from the airport. We were so comfortable staying with them and we became worried about venturing out into the unknown, again. It was easy and tempting to throw in the towel, at least for our children’s sake. YiKen was so missing his toys and thinking of his friends back at the childcare. YiXi would want something and then they would fight. The crying and whining. We just wanted to go home.
Since then we have rode another thousand kilometres, and probably 2500 km altogether. We didn’t cover as much distance as we had planned. We are slow and it is actually better. We have gained more time together and gave up trying to rush to places. We will get home surely and eventually, but now let’s go out and make an adventure!