The Family Adventure Project and Family on a Bike e-newsletter
Welcome to our September 2005 update
Well, it’s been a while since we’ve been in touch and we wish we could say that not much has happened. But since we last wrote to you in June we’ve travelled nearly ten thousand miles by car, boat and train; touring the amazing National Parks of West Coast USA; sampling the beaches, forests and mountains of Beautiful British Columbia; and seeing the sights of Lost Angeles, Last Vegas, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Washington, Boston and New York. It still takes my breath away just writing that down. Oh and then we came home, just in time to get Matthew ready to start school and Kirstie ready to deliver the baby.
So, no wonder we’ve not been in touch. But we’ve finally found a few moments to pen this update before the chaos of our first school term and a new baby takes hold. And with home on our minds, we hope to give you a flavour this time of what it’s been like to come back. And if you want to know more about how we got on in the States and Canada, then give us a call, send us an email, drop in for a coffee or have a browse of our USA and Canada postings on the website.
And just in case you’re wondering, no, our family adventure project won’t be ending here. We figure a new baby just means a new chapter and we’re looking forward to figuring out just what we might get up to with three little helpers to travel with. Got any ideas? Do let us know. But for now, it’s time for us to settle in for a while in our old new family home.
Home sweet home
The boys were on the edge of their seats, straining out the window of the bus for their first glimpse of home. I wondered if they’d recognise it after all this time, particularly Cameron who seemed so small and young when we left and is now a proper little big boy, way too big for the clothes, shoes and toys he left behind.
“Are we in England yet?” he asked, scratching away at his hair, all tousled and bleached from nine months in the sun.
“Yes, we’re in England. We’ve been in England for six days now,” I explained patiently. Somewhere along the line Cameron got confused about England and decided it was the village he lived in. His grasp of geography was still shaky even after or perhaps as a result of all our travelling. “And now we’re coming into the village we live in. Look there’s your friend Holly’s house.”
“Ohhhhhh, Holly’s house, Holly’s house” he squeaked. “Is that it Dad, that one?” It wasn’t.
The bus turned and headed out into open countryside, down the country road that led home, past cows, sheep and goats grazing in fields, old slate topped farmhouses, and quaint stone cottages. I’d forgotten what a pretty place home was.
“Yes Dad I recognise it,” shouted Matthew jumping off his seat and riding rodeo at the front of the bus. I knew he would remember. I’d tested him on the colours of the carpets in our house on the flight up from London and he’d got them all right. “That’s Holly’s house and Megan’s and we used to play there. We’re nearly home now. And I recognise that tree and those cows and that house and that road.” he jabbered away excitedly. “That’s where we used to go to the little choo choos down there.”
“Is this England?” asked Cameron again, trying hard to get a fix on his home.
“Yes sweetheart, this is England and we’re very nearly home. Your house is just down here.” I replied.
I put my arms around the two of them and enjoyed their excitement at coming home after travelling thirty four thousand miles around the world together.
“Is that my house?” asked Cameron pointing wildly out the window.
“No Cameron, that’s the pub,” said Matthew, “our house is on the Square.”
“Is it a big one?”
“Yes Cammy. Look, over there. That’s it. And look there’s someone waiting outside.”
As one family adventure ends… another begins as we await the imminent expansion of the family
“Look there’s Mummy,” said Cameron as the bus pulled up at the stop. Kirstie was over the road, standing on the doorstep, waiting for us with her friend Kate. She’d had to take the train home by herself because her bump was too big to fly but she didn’t return home alone; a welcoming party of two good friends from the village surprised her at the station and helped her home. Friends and relatives have been so supportive throughout this trip, running us to the airport, keeping an eye on the house, turning over the car, sending messages of support, not to mention keeping us up to speed with village gossip and the latest news from Heat magazine. I don’t think we realised what good friends we had around us until we went away.
“Who are those girls with Mummy?” asked Cameron.
“That’s Holly and Megan,” explained Matthew, “Holly is your friend.”
“Is she the big one or the little one?”
It didn’t matter whether Cameron remembered Holly or not. Within a few minutes of arriving the shyness was gone as the four young playmates tore around the house rediscovering playrooms, bedrooms and bathrooms and unearthing long forgotten delights from creaky old toy boxes.
“Oh look, lego, we’ve got lego and a train set, with trains and a Thomas train.”
“Hey mum, I’ve got a dressing gown and pyjamas.”
“And we’ve got bath toys and a bath and bubble bath, lots of bubble bath and story books for bedtime. Can we have stories at bedtime Mummy?”
“And there’s a cot in Cameron’s bedroom Mum. Is that for baby Snooko?”
The excitement was palpable, like Christmas, birthdays and Easter all come at once. I felt it myself as I wandered around, but something about the place wasn’t right. I remembered something my sister said about the house in one of her emails, “Your place looks terribly clean but what it really needs is some toys spreading about, and a layer of biscuit crumbs on the sofa, and toys in the bath and clothes on the stairs and an overflowing laundry basket………it is crying out to be lived in again, to come alive with a family.” Now I understood what she meant. Still it looked like it wouldn’t take the boys long to put that right.
“Daddy, Daddy. I’ve got a bike and a scooter, an action man scooter, a big one,” squealed Cameron as he ran in from a recce in the garden.
“No that’s my action man scooter Cameron,” screamed Matthew tailing in behind him, “You can have the small one. Dad, tell Cameron the big scooter is my one.”
It’s a strange sensation coming home after so long on the road. There’s a fleeting sense of unfamiliarity in a very familiar place, a short time in which you see your house, home and possessions from a distance, like they are not your own, at least not yet. I guess it takes a little time to mentally arrive home, to slip back into a more settled and homely way of living, accepting and enjoying the material comforts I’d forgotten we had. It feels for a while like a game of ‘Through the Keyhole’, taking a voyeuristic, up close glimpse at the fixtures and fittings of our life before the Big Trip. And after so long on the road, living a simple life with just a couple of changes of clothes and very little else, it’s a good time to question the need for some of the trappings of modern life before we stop noticing them again in the flow of everyday living.
And in those first few hours home, I wandered around and surveyed our castle, peeking in cupboards, browsing shelves and wondering why we needed a breadmaker; why we had so many clothes, dishes, mugs, pots, pans, toiletries; what was the point of a telephone in every room; what need we really had for a dishwasher, tumble dryer and two toasted sandwich makers. But for everything I questioned there were things I felt pleased to be reunited with too: like the cafetiere; washing machine; that nice big family dinner table; the comfy sofa; my desk and computer; my piano; our bed, clean sheets and soft duvet; the bikes and kayaks in the gear loft. And beyond the niceties noticed too the pressing realities of things deferred that now needed to be faced: the roof that leaks, a falling down chimney, the rot in the cellar. But there’s plenty of time for all of that once we’ve settled back in.
I reckon it will take quite a few weeks to get things back to a kind of normal; to unpack stored clothes and possessions, sort through the mail, get the phone working, settle bills and get the car back on the road. And when we’ve done all that I guess we’ll have to create a new normal, with Matthew starting school, Cameron off to playgroup, the baby due before the end of September and questions of work and money to address too.
But for now, to all those who ask, “Are you pleased to be home?” we all say a resounding “YES WE ARE.” Travelling was great and home is too. But for those of you who we meet in the coming weeks and months, as we catch up with friends and renew old acquaintances, a word of warning: there’s only one thing we really dread about being home and that’s the questions we will never be able to answer about our experiences over the last year, namely “What was the best bit then?” “What are you going to do now?” and “How did you find the time and energy to get pregnant while doing all that cycling and living in a tent with two toddlers?” So please don’t ask because I’m not sure we know.
What’s new on the website?
We obviously lied when we said in the last newsletter that updating the web site would be a piece of cake in the USA. Well technically it was but somewhere on the road we began to lose the will to write and you may have noticed our postings getting fewer and further between. Anyway, we’ve caught up a bit now and if you want to know more about roadtripping and railroading around the USA and Canada take a look at our postings from the road at: http://www.familyonabike.org/familyonabike/InSearchofTour/FOAB2004Storyindex.htm
If you want a few highlights then try some of the following. You can read about:
– a strange obsession that took hold of Cameron in ‘Driving us crazy’
– going caving with toddlers and pregnant women in ‘Duck down a lavatube’
– camping in bear country in ‘The bear necessities’
– the kindness of strangers in ‘Family blind date’– feeling blue in the city in ‘My kind of town’
We’ve also got a couple of feature pieces being published in the USA and New Zealand over the next couple of months. If you subscribe to Adventure Cycling Magazine (the magazine of the American Adventure Cyclists (www.adventurecyclist.org) you can read a piece we’ve written about family cycle touring in New Zealand. If you can get your hands on a copy of New Zealand’s Wilderness Magazine (www.wildernessmag.com) you can read our piece about Family Adventure in Far Northland. Let the editors know if you like what you read. we might be able to get a commission for another one!
The relentless generosity of friends, family and strangers continued to the very end of our travels. Thanks this time to all the following.
– Navraj, Pritpal, Kavita and Neelam for taking us for a traditional American style nosh up at Chilli’s and picking up the tab;
– Shelley, Kevin, Kyle and Corey who shared some toys with the boys and some stories of their adventure in living with us;
– May, Jimmy, Anne, Len and Val, who put us up and put up with us for a wonderful family weekend, jammed with us in the music room and charmed the boys playing skippedydoo;
– Chris, Erin and Ethan for taking the time and trouble to drive four hours each way to come and catch up with us in Chicago;
– Dave for wowing the kids by making their rucksacks bulge with Discovery Sci fi goodies;
– Kate, Julia, Angela, Joe, Mark and Lynette who made our home homely, put food in the fridge and flowers on the table to welcome us back;
– Annabel for keeping a watchful eye on the house and looking out for our visitors while we were on the road.
and to all those who said hello, brightened up our day, gave us a bed for the night, or cooked us a meal. We won’t forget you thinking of us even if we’ve forgotten to mention you here. Thanks also to all of you, for reading our newsletters and postings and getting in touch with your messages of support, gossip and other news from home. here.
Back to the future
So, we’re back home at last with just a few weeks to unpack aspects of our old lives, get Matthew and Cameron ready for school and playgroup, and prepare for the arrival of the new baby. Well it stops us moping about feeling miserable about the end of the trip.
And as we settle back in it’s still great to hear from people from near and far so don’t hesitate to drop us an e-mail or call in on us if you’re in the area. You can send us a message by replying to this email newsletter or by mailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next time,
Stuart, Kirstie, Matthew, Cameron, baby Wickes and Puppy The Wuppy
The Family on a Bike