By Amelia Monstad
This winter was adventure-filled for Hugo and Thor as they travelled through West Texas and Mexico by bicycle – at eighteen months and six months old, they are already no strangers to adventure.
Landing in San Antonio on February 5, we pushed two babies, two bikes and eight panniers out of the airport door into an icy wind with a temperature of two degrees. Colder than when we took off in Ottawa that morning, we thought we may have made a huge mistake. It was our first family bike-packing trip, and it was supposed to be a warm winter escape!
After exploring San Antonio’s River Walk and the Alamo, we grabbed last-minute camping supplies and food – you can’t fly with fuel canisters! On a sunny but still cool morning, the bikes and babies were packed up, and we simply pedalled away. The boys are used to their Chariot bike trailer at home as well as a Hamax baby bike seat. Their dad Rune spent five years cycling around the world. It was only mom who hadn’t spent much time on a bike.
When asked why we chose the Texan desert to start our first lengthy bike trip with two babies – well, we aren’t quite sure. We had hoped to explore Arizona and New Mexico, but it was still snowing in both places so we simply went farther south. We didn’t quite factor in the additional water we would need to carry, and we had some extreme weather. It was abnormally cool even for Texas, down to minus five at night when we were expecting around plus 10. After a stop to load up on mittens and long johns, we continued on.
We passed through Fort Stockton to Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park, cycling past cowboys, cows and cacti. The boys were so happy to be outside all day with mom and dad. They slept well in the tent bundled in their down onesies, loved camp food and never failed to wake up at sunrise as their parents had morning coffee. Anyone who stopped us was amazed that we were doing such a trip “with babies!!?” But the kids were the easy part – it was the adults who got tired and hungry, stressed and injured. One glance back at their little smiling faces made the headwind or steep uphill or bandages fade away.
After another cold, windy evening at the Texas-Mexico border, our goal changed – we would bike south until we found a beach. Southwest to Chihuahua – where the boys got to pet many tiny dogs – and then towards the Pacific coast on Mexico’s only passenger train, El Chepe, took us closer to our goal. Through desert, mountain ranges, high peaks covered in pink bougainvillea, then down through lakes to the coast, the adventure continued.
We slept most nights in the tent. In Texas, we cooked our own camp food. In Mexico, it was easier, cheaper and more fun to pack up camp and find a small restaurant for morning coffee before cycling onward. We biked almost every day, between 15 and 50 km – our longest day was 90 km when we really wanted to get to the beach. We stopped when anyone was hungry (mom), needed a Coke (dad) or wanted to play (everyone).
Finally, we were eating ceviche on an empty beach under the full moon. This was what we had been dreaming about when we were shivering in Texas! Every time we explain that we cycled in Mexico, eyes go wide and people ask about how dangerous it was. It was not dangerous at all, not in the border towns or the tiny villages or the big cities, and not with babies either. Mexicans adore kids, and every time we sat down to eat, the boys would be entertained, given small toys and snacks and carried around.
On our last day, we cycled for kilometres down an empty beach near Mazatlán, ate fresh avocados (Thor’s first food!) and let the adventure sink in. We couldn’t imagine this trip without the little ones who grew and learned so much – and taught us much more.
You may have seen Rune, a tall Norwegian clad in a hand-knit sweater, cycling around the Glebe with one or both babies on his bicycle. Before Amelia, Hugo and Thor came along, Rune spent five years cycling around the world and was the first person to cross Canada by bicycle in the winter. This was their first family bike-packing trip. Follow our adventures or say hello @VikingBikers on Instagram or vikingbiker.com.