Wednesday, April 25, 2012

9 wheels, 8 legs and 1 Gulf Island

The other day we were just talking about how much fun we had touring Galiano Island on our bikes.  Me thinks another bike/island adventure is in order this summer.  Here is an article written on our experience back in 2010.  Published in the July 2010 issue of Island Parent.

Approaching Montague Harbour Prov Park on Galiano Island

Feelings of apprehension started the moment we pulled into the parking lot at Swartz Bay ferry terminal.  My husband, son Ben (5), daughter Liv (3) and I were about to embark on a new adventure together.  We have always been an active family, tackling sections of the Juan de Fuca trail or canoeing on the small chain of lakes on Quadra Island under our belts.  But this was going to be a first.   We were going to be travelling with all our belongings using our own energy.  It was going to be us on our bikes, pedalling around Galiano Island; Sturdies Bay to Montague Harbour Marine Provincial Park.  There was no vehicle coming with us.  No place to store extra food or spare clothing.  All we needed for two days was tightly packed into the trailer hooked to my bike.  Attached to the other bike was the tag-along for Liv to ride and Ben was riding his own.  I remember coasting down the ferry line up, taking our position behind a car, and feeling empowered by how little ‘stuff’ we had with us.  The fellow ferry passengers all smiled the ‘Ah, how cute’ smile as we rode along.  I felt good knowing I was actively teaching my children the importance and value of doing more with less.  And we are doing it with our own power.  Slowly the anxiety was disappearing.

Leaving the ferry and walking up the ramp towards Galiano Island

This journey proved valuable in more ways than I could have imagined.  As we started packing for the trip, I watched the trailer fill up with sleeping bags, tent, sleeping pads, clothes, and food.  The pile of ‘stuff to take’ was slowly becoming the pile of ‘stuff not to take.’  Lantern?  Nope, too big.  Headlamps instead.  Dishes?  Nope, eating out of the pot or freeze-dried food bag will work.  With every item tossed aside, a burden was removed.  No lantern meant one less item to pick up after and no dishes meant, well, no dishes.  Every moms dream!  The whole idea of packing only what we can carry had an effect on the children as well.  Both children were allowed to bring a book and toy with them but they would need to carry it themselves.  Armed with their own backpacks, they decided which ones to take.  After much consideration a small book and stuffed animal were chosen..  Small and light, smart kids.  As a parent, I want what’s best for my children but I also want them to learn how to live within one’s mean.  Learning how to carry the weight of one’s ‘stuff’ can be used for tangible items as well as financial or sustainable ones.  Yes, the hard lessons of life are all taught while packing for a camping trip.  If only it were always that simple.

Liv reviewing the map ensuring we do know where we are going.

My idea of biking Galiano Island with our children was more than just a scenic ride in the Gulf Islands.  It was about being active and teaching them how to lead a healthy lifestyle with real experiences.  I once read about a study stating older children being twice as likely to be active if their mothers are active and nearly six times if both parents are active.  This statement is the constant motivator for all the adventures we plan.  The 8 km route we were taking was described as steep up and steep down.  An accurate description.  There was one hill that was a bit of a struggle for me.  More so the hundreds of pounds of gear in the trailer I was pulling.  Perhaps I am exaggerating but I sure kept double checking to see if someone was trying to catch a ride.  Exhausted and tired I pushed the bike up the hill with words of encouragement from Ben and Liv.  “Go Mommy Go!”  I could have been discouraged with my efforts but instead felt like I was accomplishing what we set out to do.  We were creating real experiences of being active.   

Me and the 200lbs of gear making it up the hill. (sure felt like 200lbs)

As we continued on, the encouraging words were directed at different people at different times.  “Go Ben Go!” when he was just about at the top of the hill or “Pedal Liv Pedal” when Dad needed an extra bit of speed on the tandem bike.  We kept those wheels turning and made it to our destination.  While we explored Gray Peninsula and Montague Harbour, I thought about the apprehensions I had about this adventure only 8 hrs earlier.  Those feeling were long gone and replaced with thoughts of what else can we do?  The children were hanging out on the shell beach, completely content with their surroundings.  The journey had not negatively impacted them at all.  In fact it gave them confidence in their abilities.  I thought about the next day’s travel and a different, but equally challenging, route back to Sturdies Bay with excitement rather than fear.  Pretty sure I was going to pushing the bike up hills again but looked forward to the kids cheering me on.

Scenery from Galiano Island
Dad's turn to bear some of the weight.

Every journey we embark on bonds us closer as a family.  This time it was lunch at the top of Galiano Bluffs.  Fatigued from pushing the bikes up another hill, (are there any flat islands out there?), we found the closest spot available to sit and enjoy lunch.  Quietly we ate smoked salmon, nibbled on dried fruit, and watched the ferries travel through Active Pass.  Not much was said but there did not need to be.  We were together, sharing an experience. Content with what we had, unconcerned with what we did not.  Our experience has lead me to believe it takes more than living, eating and sleeping together in a home to be a family.  It takes an adventure.

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