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Road Trip Tips and Tricks for the Cyclist Family
Going from a "single guy, bike racer" to "married, father of a one-and-a-half-year-old, entrepreneurial bike racer guy."
My 2021 race season is all wrapped up. Naturally, nearly everyone was on tenuous terms with attending events right up until Unbound happened in early June this year, which effectively opened the flood gates to live events once again. As a result, and with an abundance of caution, the King family event schedule went from tentative to very very busy over the course of a single weekend. Now looking back at the past five months, it has been a whirlwind of activity. As a former “single guy, bike racer”, the planning process to attend races has become a bit more complicated since I’m now a “married, father of a one-and-a-half-year-old, entrepreneurial bike racer guy”.
Van trips are now part of the adventure and equation for our family and for a good slice of America. Admittedly we have a Sprinter van that we purchased from a friend which was already outfitted to haul bikes, and that increases the convenience factor significantly. That said, my advice here is as good for the family sedan as it is for a minivan or Sprinter, just as long as you have a sweet Saris rack carting your beloved bikes along for the ride.
There are two schools of thought with road tripping: wing it or plan it out. In a former life, I subscribed to the wing it mentality. Drive as far as a I can, do some jumping jacks, fill up on snacks, and use whatever bathroom you find on the fly. Rides will be fit in at some random spots along the side of the road whenever the mood strikes.
Now in parenthood, and especially with a spouse whose interest in riding is perhaps even greater than mine, planning is a much better course of action. While living in the van, an entire day could be whittled away between getting our daughter dressed and fed, each of us getting out for a ride, and swapping off watching our daughter since her independence is minuscule at best. Not to mention trying to get work done for our respective jobs. To then try to make progress from point A to point B along the trip could easily be moot without a bit of planning.
It’s convenient to start with a navigation person. Whether it’s the entire driving route, the distance needed to be covered for the day, the restaurants, gas stations, and general places to stop, as well as the riding route, that job belongs to me. I won’t over-plan the navigation process too far in advance of the trip, but instead prefer to see how it shakes out over the course of the day. That, of course, is based on how our progress is coming along on the particular day, plus an estimated amount of time designated to driving and riding. As it pertains to planning rides, I only use Ride with GPS and am especially happy to hone in on heatmaps and their surface features, so I can see how popular routes are as well as if they’re paved or gravel roads. For driving, I’m a simpleton and Google Maps is tough to beat where I’ll compare user ratings and see how much of a detour any particular stop is from our required route.
Diving a bit more into the map-planning process, it’s going to be beneficial to everyone in our family if we stop at a playground. Arriving at said location, our daughter Hazel is of course happy as a clam to play around, there’s virtually always ample parking, and I’m typically looking for a playground in which I also see lots of space in most directions to ride. That allows mom or dad to go out and ride, the other parent hangs with Hazel, feeds her and maybe gets her down for a nap, then the switch-a-roo happens so the other parent can get out and ride.
Switching gears, a cellphone that works as a mobile hotspot is a lifesaver for us. Using this setup, the passenger is able to get Hazel settled with snacks, her toys, and hopefully happily zoning out starting out the window so the passenger-seated parent can accomplish a bit of work. Despite lots of time on the bike, both Laura and I require most of our work to be done behind a computer screen, so those elusive moments of a quiet car are invaluable.
I won’t go too deep into tidiness because that’s more of a personal vehicular hygiene decision than anything. When packing for a van trip you may feel the ability to throw all your belongings into the car, as opposed to packing for a flight where you have weight and suitcase restrictions. While there’s truth to this, it’s still worth making a list of the necessities and not going too far beyond that, because you’ll soon be tripping over your copious belongings and wishing you’d packed lighter. Keep it simple.
Snacking and road trips go hand in hand like… snacking and road trips. Presumably you’re sitting on your duff for most of the day, so while I know some people will starve themselves on their travel days, I live in the real world where hunger is a thing. Taste, ease of consumption, and low salt are my priorities to sate my appetite, because I want something that’s enjoyable to eat, isn’t a total mess, and I don’t want to swell into a sponge over the day when I’ve eaten six bags of chips and have a sodium content rivaling that of a salt shaker. We live in the golden era of snack foods, so the world is your oyster. No-salt-added peanut butter pretzels are a personal favorite, mixed nuts, dried mango, and small producers of jerky are all terrific too. I even really enjoy mushroom jerky and would suggest it to anyone, vegan or non. Yogurt is tasty as well if you have access to refrigeration.
These are just a jump off point from which to make your inaugural road trip. Of course, when you’re confined to the space above your four vehicular wheels, life is not going to be as simple as when you’re actually at home. Changing your clothes in a parking lot is not as simple. Keeping your bike spic and span and in working order is not as simple. Dining on meals with your seatbelt on is not as simple. But then suddenly you’re on your bike and riding in an entirely new area in which you’d never be otherwise, that’s why you should hit the road and give it a try! The learning curve is steep, so start with a brief weekender road trip with your family and bike and see what comes after that.
Welcome to Ted’s Talk! This is the third installment of a five-part series spearheaded by the King of Gravel, Ted King, as he goes deep on all aspects of gravel cycling. After a ten-year career in the World Tour ranks of professional road racing, Ted thought he was hanging up his wheels and setting off towards the horizon of retirement in 2015. But his fondness for the sport of cycling was too strong and it’s like he never left! Ted is a brand ambassador, gravel cyclist, racer, advocate, and consultant on all things two-wheels.
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